By David Rhys-Jones
It is hard to define what gliding has lost. It is easy to define what it has gained - Self Sustainers, Moving Maps, L/D’s of 50 to 1 and even mobile phones. In our high pressure world with crowded airspace and rigid safety awareness, all these are essential. However, at the end of the day, you have had a pleasant afternoon and you may or may not have climbed a few places on the BGA Ladder. In days gone by, each cross country flight was an adventure with any number of possible outcomes. I don’t think we had many more crashes, but if we did, the gliders were cheap and there were characters like Ron King who enjoyed repairing them.
My first glider was a Foka 5. It came from the golden age Polish gliders. Poland was part of the Soviet Union Comintern where profit and loss was a capitalist concept and you made good gliders regardless of cost. The Foka was good. It held 7 world records and took the first five places in the 1962 world championships. It was entirely made of moulded ply and the wings were stressed skin with no main spar. It had a raked fin and an all flying tailplane. It looked good and flew beautifully.
The syndicate were all in their seventies, then considered to be old, and with the exception of Peter Holloway, did not fly it much. The only real problem was Ron King whose one objective was to get it in the workshop. As a result it was in immaculate condition. My share cost £1200 - not the sort of money that causes marital breakdown. I flew it as often as I wanted and landed out all across Sussex and much of Hampshire.