(Our archives can be found at www.icgcarchive.co.uk – there are some great pictures!)
1930 – 1940
Although there had previously been isolated experiments with gliders, the feats of the Germans in 1921 and 1922 prompted the Daily Mail to organise the first British meeting on the Sussex Downs in October 1922. On this occasion world records were set up with flights of over three hours, but the interest aroused soon died away. The sport continued to progress in Germany, some of the best aeronautical brains being devoted to the task of perfecting sailplanes and soaring technique.
In 1929 Robert Kronfeld and others made some remarkable cross-country flights using cold fronts and cumulus cloud currents. These flights again awakened interest in motorless flying, and the British Gliding Association was formed at the end of 1929. Gliding Clubs sprang up like mushrooms all over the country and were soon building primary gliders. A further meeting on the Sussex Downs in June, 1930, from which Robert Kronfeld, the Austrian gliding ace, made the first British cross-country flight of fifty miles, greatly encouraged the movement.
The College Club was formed in February, 1930, and enthusiasts set to work to build in the College workshops a primary glider known as “IC 1” to their own design). This glider was taken to the first camp on Salisbury Plain but was blown over and damaged before being flown. However, a grant from the IC Union enabled a second “primary” to be purchased, and flying began in January 1931. At the second camp in September no less than 120 launches were made, and among the certificates gained was an A (30 seconds flight) by the Rector.
This elementary training continued all over the country, but the difficulty of finding sites and of building machines for more advance flying slowly cause the death of most of the club which had been formed in the 1930 boom. The College Club began to use the site of the London Gliding Club at Dunstable, and the more advanced members also used their machines. By the end of 1934 it became obvious that small gliding clubs must sacrifice their independence and amalgamate with the larger clubs if the elementary stage was to be passed and, after long discussion, the College Club affiliated to the London Gliding Club.
With the services of a full range of sailplanes and of a full-time instructor the standard of flying improved rapidly. For the summer of 1937 a “Kirby Kite” sailplane was bought for the exclusive use of IC members and has since been flown by more than a dozen different pilots without any damage – and excellent record. Teams were entered for the British National Competitions in 1938 and 1939, at which some excellent flights were made and several awards won.
In 1930 Imperial College students formed one of the pioneer gliding clubs and at the beginning of the war, when further gliding was forbidden, we remained one of the dozen active clubs in the country. A.H.Y.
1945 – 1990
The Club was re-formed in November 1945 and placed an order for a Kirby Kite II, later amended to a primary trainer, the Cadet. This was delivered in July 1946, when the Club held its first post-war camp at Devil’s Dyke. Unfortunately the Cadet was immediately broken, taking until the following Easter to repair. In October, the Club formally joined the B.G.A and began to look for a permanent base. After consideration of various disused airfields, the Club affiliated to the Surrey Gliding Club and started flying from Redhill in February 1947. A de Soto car-based winch (‘a dreadful heap’) was purchased and used for transport to Redhill, as well as for launching. Much discussion at this time centred around the offer by one of the members of his home-built ornithopter for use as a glider! A further Cadet, together with a pair of Tutor wings (a ‘high performance’ modification) was purchased during the summer.
The next camp was held at the Southdown Friston site in Easter 1948. Two Cadet accidents during the spring led to a long committee discussion of single-seat training (progression from ground slides to ‘low hops’ to circuits) and consideration of two-seat instruction at the instigation of Prof. Brunt. This led to the disposal of the Cadets and the acquisition of ‘Daisy’, a Slingsby T. 21 open cockpit side-by-side trainer, by the Aeronautics Department in January 1949 (after the Head of Department was convinced of its suitability for teaching Aero students!). This aircraft pioneered two-sear instruction and the present training syllabus was largely designed using our experience.
In the summer of 1949, ICGC competed in the National competitions using a borrowed Olympia and finished 11th. A team of ex-students provided Lorne Welch’s crew at the World Champs in Sweden the following year. In August 1951 increasing congestion, brought to a head by a Tiger Moth hitting a winch cable, forced us and Surrey GC to move to Lasham. At this point we bought out own Olympia, ‘Cream-O’, which finished 11th in the Nationals, piloted by Frank Irving and R.A.M Mackfie. Members again crewed for Lorne Welch at the Worlds, this time in Madrid. A meteorological expedition was mounted to North Wales in September to explore the phenomenon of standing waves. This led to our first visit to the Long Mynd over Christmas, which set a long-standing precedent by experiencing appalling weather and soaring proved impossible. The next Christmas expedition to Camphill was similarly abandoned.
Unfortunately, our Oly was written off early in 1954 and after some discussion, the insurance money was put towards the purchase of a Skylark II, which arrived in April 1955. It was immediately doped flame orange and became know as ‘Phoenix’. That summer the Club mounted its first ever foreign expedition with its own aircraft, when Phoenix was taken to Yugoslavia. Time was also found to enter the Skylark in the Nationals. Paul Minton returned to Yugoslavia the following year and flew the possibly unique ‘Jadran’ flying-boat glider, but later student expedition found no signs of this mythical beast.
The next few years saw Phoenix regularly flying in the Nationals, despite some petrol shortages. In 1957, Frank Irving and Paul Minton won the team trophy for their performance in their new Skylark 3 ’66’ and in 1959 messrs Irving and Tonkyn were placed fourth. The Long Mynd was revisited with more success at Christmas 1948 and at Easter 1959 Paul Minton gain his Gold height to become the first member with a complete Gold C. That summer, Daisy was sold to the Air Scouts (who later wrote her off in a collision with a K-8) and replaced by a new Slingsby T.42 Eagle, carrying the competition number ’96’. In the autumn training mover back to Redhill, with aerotow launchhing courtesy of the Tiger Club, whilst summer soaring continued at Lasham. This experiment continued until Easter 1961, when the Club returned permanently to Lasham.
In the summer of 1962, Phoenix was replaced by a new Skylark 4, with the competition number ‘296’, which students used to compete in the first inter-university match against Cambridge. The Club mounted its second expedition abroad the following summer, taking ‘296’ to Aosta in the Italian Alps. This was highly successful, leading to a return visit at Easter 1964. That summer, thanks to Fred Slingsby’s generous loan of the Dart 15 prototype, students were able to take part in the German ‘Idaflieg’ and join students from the German Akafliegs (university glider design groups) flying each others’ glider prototypes.
The 1965 World Championships were held at South Cerney and out Skylark 4 was lent to the Finnish team, who duly ran it into a ‘stone hedge’ during the contest. The summer expedition was to Zell-am-See, Austria, where one of the locals managed to spin into the lake whilst trying to emulate Bill Kronfeld’s aerobatics (incredibly neither he nor his glider suffered irremediable damage). The 1967 summer expedition to Angers, France was thankfully less eventful. A long period of Cambridge domination of the Brunt trophy was ended in the winter of 1968, after a successful trip to Portmoak. A ground-breaking expedition to Huesca, Spain in the summer of 1969 was emasculated when the Spanish Air Ministry refused permission to fly. Undeterred, four students made a non-flying visit to the area. In December of the year Frank Irving was elected President of the Club, a post he has been unable to decline ever since!
By this time, our Skylark 4 “hot-ship” was considered to be docile (or expendable) enough to be flown as a first single-seater. Portmoak was revisited at Christmas 1969, when the Eagle was broken but the Brunt trophy retained. Purchase of a K-13 to replace the Eagle (by now costing a fortune in maintenance) and a K-8 to free the Skylark for cross-country flying was proposed. Our new K-8 ‘496’ (now flying with Surrey & Hants) arrived in February 1970. That summer, George Burton became the first ex-student to compete in a World Championships, using the new Slingsby Kestrel 19 at Minden, Nevada. By the end of 1970, discussion resumed on selling the Eagle, to be replaced by a share in a K-7. In May 1971 the Eagle was at last sold and the proceeds put towards a half share in a Lasham-operated K-7. Aosta was revisited in the summer of 1971 and Portmoak that winter. By February 1972, Club activity had increased to the extent that the purchase of a third single-seater was considered. Thanks to a generous offer by the President’s syndicate, we acquired their Dart 17R ‘466’ in August 1973, when it was promptly renumbered ’96’.
An expedition to Aboyne in September 1973 yielded five Gold heights – the lack of oxygen being the only limit! The achievements of the students were highlighted by Pete Verkrodst’s award for attaining two Silver C legs from scratch in only 8 months. Th fuel crisis halted flying for a period and caused much discussion of finances, but proved only a temporary blow. The summer of 1975 saw another milestone when Tony Crease became the first member to complete a 500 km flight in a Club aircraft – a feat which has not been repeated to date! The increased performance available from fibreglass gliders decided the committee to replace the Dart with a new machine and an Astir CS was ordered in January 1976. This arrived in November and a ‘dedicated team of craftsmen’ designed and built a trailer for it in the Aeronautics workshops. Unfortunately, after only two month use the Astir, together with the K-8 was badly damaged in the infamous ‘trailing vortex’ accident when a K-13 hit the launch queue (amazingly no-one was seriously injured). Despite the decimation of our fleet, three student members managed to make 300 km flights that summer. 1978 also had its share of disasters when the Astir was rolled in its trailer during a retrieve and our long-serving Skylark was written off after a cloud-flying accident in June. However, Alison Jordan mad Club history by gaining the British women’s height gain and absolute altitude records in the Astir at Aboyne.
The Skylark insurance money was quickly used to purchase our Club Libelle, ‘716’ in October 1978. Plans were laid for our Golden Jubilee in 1980 and a celebratory dinner was attended by 86 guests in May. 1980 proved to be a good year, with 4 Diamond goals achieved and two Gold heights gained on the Aboyne expedition. We at last gained a permanent home at Lasham in the spring of 1981, with our lease of the old Scout Hut. The summer saw increased competition activity at the Inter-University Task Week and in Regional competitions, but another accident caused a lengthy grounding for’96’. The fragility of the Astir forced the committee to apply for a replacement and after a buyer was eventually found, we gained out present ‘hot ship’, the ASW-19. The new generation of competition pilots, Chris Starkey and Phil Guthrie took part in several Standard Class Nationals, Chris coming 8th using our ASW-19 in 1984. The students were also active in competitions, holding the Task Week at Lasham in 1983. The first foreign expedition for some years was mounted to Aosta in 1986, when Martin Judkins made an epic flight over Mont Blanc, gaining his Diamond height in the process. 1986 also saw the arrival of our newest machine when the veteran K-8 was replaced by a Grob G-102 (a fibreglass club-class glider) which adopted the number ‘296’.
In recent years a foreign expedition has been made annually to Gap in the French Alps, in addition to members competing in the Task Week and various Regionals. The G-102 has proved to be a docile, well-handling fibreglass equivalent of the K-8 and has also been used to achieve a Diamond goal! Most recently, the new Junior Nationals contest has encouraged student competition pilots to stretch their limits. As the Club passes its ‘Diamond goal’ its future appears secure with an excellent glider fleet and a core of committed student and ex-student members. N.P.L
1990 – 2000
The most important change in the club during the 1990’s has probably been the purchase of the Grob 103C ‘496’. This was funded in 1991 by the sale of the club Libelle ‘716’ and an £11,000 grant from the Harlington Trust, and has since proved an integral part of the club’s activities, in roles ranging from ab-initio trial flights, through first solos and on to cross country and competition training. In 1995 Martin Judkins and Afandi Darlington completed the first 500km triangle in a club 2-seater in this aircraft.
In 1995 the ASW19 ’96’ was sold to Peter Healy et al in order to make way for our new ‘hot ship’ an ASW24, which then inherited the traditional IC number. This glider has proved immensely popular with all club members, and has been taken to numerous Regional, National and Junior National, European and World competitions. In addition to this change to the single-seater fleet, 1999 saw the sale of the long-serving Grob 102 back to the Dutch club that had originally owned, crashed, rebuilt and sold to us back in the 1980’s. It was replaced with a Discus B to be used as a first single seater, however it is already proving popular with the more experienced pilots, having been campaigned in the 2000 Junior Nationals already. These changes meant that we now have an excellent fleet that should remain stable for the foreseeable future.
The 90’s have been fairly quiet on the expedition front, save for 3 trips to Aboyne in the early 90’s and one to Le Blanc in 1996. However, an expedition to Spain is on the cards for 2001 – hopefully (unlike Aboyne 1993) a car can be found that will tow 496 without breaking in any way! This is not to say that the pilot achievements have been similarly subdued, however. Afandi Darlington attained a Diamond Badge in 1993, and other current and ex-members have achieved numerous other 300km and 500km flights.
On the competition front, Afandi Darlington, Peter Masson, Luke Rebbeck, Sarah Harland and Jane Lewis have all represents Great Britain at various Junior European, Junior World and Women’s European events. Domestically, the future also looks bright, with 3 current students contesting the 2000 Junior Nationals and a new crop of keep young pilots snapping at their heels ready for cross-country training.
The future looks bright for Imperial College Gliding Club, this year the membership hit 65, for the first time in memory the club has current students with instructor ratings, and the fleet is the envy of any other Gliding Club, university or otherwise. Here’s to another 70 years! C.D.S.
2000 – 2010
In 2001, under the guidance of Hemraj Nithianandarajah, the club held an expedition to Jaca in Spain for four weeks, taking the Grob, 496, and the Discus, 296. Much flying was had, giving many members their first taste of mountain flying. This expedition set a trend and each year the club has taken both gliders away for a month, in 2002 to Winzeln in southern Germany, and in 2003 and 2004, to Vlasim in the south of the Czech Repulbic.
We have also been keeping busy on the competition front, each year we have entered at least two gliders into the Junior Nationals, in 2000,Chris Smart flew 96, Hemraj Nithianandarajah flew 296 and Luke Rebbeck also competed, in 2003, Hemraj Nithianandarajah flew 296 and Chris Smart again flew 96, and most recently at the 2004 Juniors, Jamie Denton in 296 competed and Chris Smart took several people round Hors Concors in 496.
As for membership, the club has had a consistently committed membership, and in 2003-2004 the membership hit 67, another record membership for the club!
This year is our 75th year and we are already planning the celebrations! Three quarters of a century of motorless flight, time to head for the big one hundred! J.M.D
2010 – 2020
Captains of icGC
|1972-1973||Miss M. Short|