These pictures were taken a few months after the filming of
‘Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines’ which took
place at Booker in 1965
The old hangers (now replaced) including the current Belman
T21 flying towards M40 under construction
Early picture of a T21 being launched by cable
Information on the gliding activities between 1965 and 1968
is hard to come by as little seems to have been recorded and what is
known now comes mainly from the fading memories of members. However,
trawling through old copies of Sailplane and Gliding I came across
news of inter-club rivalry between Booker and Swindon Gliding Clubs
for the Wycombe/Swindon Cup. This was claimed by a glider taking of
from one club and landing at the other. The competition for holding
on to the cup can be judged from this extract from the Thames Valley
GC report in the August 1969 S&G.
‘In the July S & G we recorded that we had regained the
Wycombe/Swindon Cup. On 19th April a Swindon member flew
in and took it away, however Bungey Baker was immediately launched
and landed at Swindon a few hours later; so it is still with us.’
In 1968, Shep (Frederick John Shepherd) perhaps one of the
clubs most well known and experienced current pilots, arrived
on the Booker scene. Shep first learned to fly in a T21 while
stationed in Aden in 1960. His exploits, both in and out of gliders,
are written up in an article in he February 1993 Newsletter and are
well worth a read. (In
Shep achieved his
became Chairman of the Thames Valley Gliding Club in 1969 and Graham Saw, the current aerobatics
tutor, took on the role of technical officer with Tony Hayes as the
In 1970 the
CFI, Norman Smith, was assisted by two course instructors Chris
Rollings and Dennis Neville. Chris was to set the single-seater
record for a 750k task in his Jantar, starting and ending at Booker
in 1985. In 1990 he was to repeat the same task but setting the
first 750k record in a two-seater, ASH 25 (Basil Fairston, the
manager of BGC at that time, was in the rear seat).
The very first launch point vehicle. The lady keeping the log was
member Peggy Belbin and the member standing in front was
In 1973 the
Thames Valley Gliding Club and the Airways Flying Club (gliding)
combined their operations with one set of regulations under the
auspices of the ‘Wycombe Gliding School’ for administrative purposes
only. There was one CFI, Chris Rollings with Dennis Neville and
Verdun Luck as Deputies.
Alistair Kay took over as Chairman and remained so after the clubs
combined – see later.
club hut at
that time was a long blue wooded building (replacing a brown hut
where Wycombe Air Centre now stands). It was positioned lengthways
where the car park is now situated and would have been aligned with
the restaurant (although the restaurant was built many years later).
point vehicle was an old ice-cream van, seen in this early picture,
replaced over the years by various single and double-decker buses.
flying in 1974 are shown in the here.
Skylark gliders with the (ice cream van) launch vehicle
Formation of Booker Gliding Club
Booker GC has always had a very strong cross-country ethos
with its pilots achieving significant success at National and
International levels. At various periods, over 60% of the British
Gliding Team were Booker pilots.
In the following paragraphs, occasional mention will be
made of records broken by Booker glider pilots. This is in no way a
comprehensive list, as their achievements are far too many to
In 1978 the
clubs amalgamated under the name ‘Booker Gliding Club’ with Brian
Spreckley as CFI/Manager. Brian was the ex-National Coach, three
times British champion. He also won the 15-metre World Championships
at Benalla, Australia in 1987. His success in these world
championships was recorded in the following article
Also at the
club at this time was a lady, Gillian,
who he later
married. Gillian Spreckley went on to win the 15m Class in Lithuania
in 2001 and in 2007 the Club Class in France.
Gillian left Booker to set up the European Soaring Club
replaced by Basil Fairston, who, due to family commitments, only
stayed until late 1990.
chairman of Booker Gliding Club was Alistair Kay.
In February 1979, Gerry Leech (current cat 1 instructor)
produced the first Booker Gliding Newsletter. The
newsletter is still going strong today although it has
changed in format through the years.
Familiar names of some current members figured in the first
edition, namely Graham Saw (ex-national aerobatics
champion and current club instructor) and Bob Davey
(current Tug Master).
All Newsletters from 1999 are available in the archive on
the Booker web site.
Gerry Leech with Gladys Belson - mayor of High Wycombe -
In 1989 two
members, Bill Waller and Graham McAndrew (club CFI) set the UK
record for the 'UK Multi-seater gain of height' of 27,392 feet in
the club K21 (ECZ) at Aboyne. Unfortunately this record did not last
long as in 1990, two other club members Alister Kay and Kevin Wilson
climbed to over 36.000 feet in the ASH 25.
replaced by Derek Godfrey as Manager and Graham McAndrew was
replaced by Alex Evens as CFI.
Aug 1991 saw the establishment of Air Traffic Control at
In the January of this year, Derek Godfrey was appointed
manager replacing Basil
Alex Evans took over as CFI.
Newsletter of April 1992, it was interesting to read that our
current K21 ECZ (then 12 years old) had done 7800 launches, 3027
hours, flown in the Alps, Pyrenees and Scottish Highlands on
expeditions, as well as providing basic training at Booker 7 days a
week. Looking at the glider today one is struck by how good it looks
and it would be interesting to know the latest statistics.
took over as club Chairman in October 1991; having been Chairman of
the BGA Instructors’ Committee.
In February of
1993, Julie Angell took over as the CFI of the club. Julie was the
second lady in this post, following Vera Wates a previous CFI. Julie
was obviously a sportswoman, as she had been a sailing instructor
and member of the RYA Olympic squad. She also competed in the
International 505 class and found time to help deliver yachts across
the Atlantic, before turning to gliding.
Cadet Scheme was started in 1993 with the aim of
enabling young people to learn to fly, at a very low cost,
and provide an enhanced ground training, mentoring and flying
programme. To join the scheme they have to be between 15 and 21
years of age and in full time education.
As well as learning to fly, cadets also have the
opportunity to gain experience in many other aspects of gliding club
operations; everything from managing the start line for a
competition, to briefing new members and course attendees. The
scheme has opened the door to a number of flying scholarship
programs and has helped many cadets progress to successful flying
In 1994, the
teaching of aerobatics commenced at Booker under Graham Saw – a
member with significant success in aerobatics at National level. Graham
(and Alun Jenkins) still run annual courses in aerobatics at BGC.
In 1995 two
Booker pilots achieved world height records which still stand today
(see the BGA web site):
– 11,570m: Chris Rollings in a DG 500. The P2 was
a lady glider pilot and tuggie who went along for the ride.
Gain of height (1995) – 10,545m: Chris Rollings &
Hicks in a DG 500.
The records were
set on the last day of an expedition to Aboyne.
It was an
awesome day and the rest of the group were not allowed to fly at the
time due to the very rough conditions.
!995 was also marked by Booker finances being swollen by a
substantial VAT windfall. (£159,000)
as the club was recognised as a CASC by the Inland Revenue.
introduced the X-Country Endorsement to the Bronze Badge in Feb
saw the demise of the Newsletter format that had survived for seven
years becoming the Booker Information Sheet. Gone were the articles
of members’ exploits and expedition reports. It was now a much
slimmed down formal periodical.
golf buggies appeared this year for the first time.
1997 saw the
replacement (i.e. current) ATC control tower was built in 1997.
Bernie Morris (Chairman) was replaced by Tony Marlow.
Moving on to
1999 saw Booker hosting the 18m
Graham Saw again secured first place in the intermediate
class of the National Aerobatic Championships flying his Lunak in
In late October, the old hangers (shown in the earlier
photograph of the T21 being cable launched) were demolished and
replaced in March 2000, by the hangars used today and in November
the Booker GC web site (developed by Alan Smith) first appeared.
2000 saw significant successes by club members:
Dave Watt and Al Kay 2nd and 5th in European 15m
Ed Johnson 1st in 15m Nationals
Chris Rollings 3rd in Open Class Nationals
Graham Saw 1st in Aerobatics Nationals, Intermediate Class
The club replaced the golf buggies with the ones in current
use in the April.
The club has run
expeditions for a number of years. Perhaps the most distant one was
to South Africa in Nov 2000.
September 2002 saw the retirement of Dave Byass as chairman
for the past 4 years to be replaced by Bruce Cooper.
In October a
set up to look in to the costs of replacing the existing club house
which needed considerable repair work, with a temporary building of
the log cabin or portacabin type building in the trailer park.
Dec 2003 -
became the chairman once again as a temporary measure.
Sept 2005 - CFI – Matt Cook was replaced by Andy Henderson.
The club decided to sell one of the 5 tugs. Discus 316 and possibly
the K21 to realise additional funds.
In November 2005 - Bob Davey took over from Dave Watt as
Chief Tug Pilot
In April 2006 – Roland Wales became the club chairman.
In July – a
surplus Pawnee was sold.
This year, Jez Hood, won Bronze in the Standard Class World
Championships in Sweden. In the Club Class World Championships held
on the 15th July in Vinon, France two other Booker
members Jay Rebbeck and Rich (Speedy) Hood represented Great Britain
In August - Tim Scott won the 15m Nationals. In fact
Booker swept the board with six of our
pilots in the top ten with Tim Scott 1st, Paul Brice 5th,
Dave Watt 6th, Matt Cook 7th, Bruce Cooper 9th
and Wayne Aspland 10th.
Paul Brice came second in the 18m nationals with Dave Watt 4th
and Rich Hood 7th.
Mike Collett came 16th in the Junior Nationals and 8th
in the Club Class Nationals (Mike took on the role of Deputy CFI in
October 2006 – Gary Nutall took on the editorship of the Newsletter
and web site.
In need of further funds, the club put the K8 DHA up for
In 2006 a number of Yahoo Forums were set up to
encourage communication between members.
December 2006 – the post of full time CFI filled by Andy
Handerson, was abandoned and Andy Perkins was appointed
as ‘unpaid’ CFI.
Andy had three diamonds at 21 and he was the youngest-ever BGA
regional examiner at 22. Andy started flying with the Upward Bound
trust, which was founded by members of the Glider Pilot Regiment
after WW2 to teach 16-21 year olds to fly. (He had his first flight
in a T21 with his Mum and Dad, at three years of age). Andy had a
long association with Booker GC working as a course instructor
during his gap year.
Mike Collett remained the DCFI. Mike Collett secured a place on the
British Juniors Team representing Great Britain at the World Gliding
Championships in Rueti, Italy in 2007.
May 2007 saw students from the HND TV production course at Amersham
and Wycombe College on site to produce a DVD of a trial lesson as
part of their coursework. The final DVD was offered to BGC and can
be seen on the Web Site. It is also on offer at various Sales and
were once again outstanding in competitions. In Aerobatics, Emily
Todd won the Standard Class at the British Glider Nationals and
Graham Saw came second in the Intermediate class. Mike Collett was a
member of the Great Britain team at Junior World championships in
Riete where he came 24th (marred by technical
difficulties). In September he won the UK Junior National
championships at Tibenham.
In January Ban
Flewett came second in the FAI World Gliding Grand Prix in New
Zealand and Graham Saw was awarded the British Aerobatic Association
Glider Trophy for 2007.
In 2008 Mike
Collett was appointed CFI.
registered as a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC), which has
charitable status, and
Companies House as Booker Gliding Club Ltd.
It is managed by a committee, the members of which are listed in
on the Booker web site.
There are many members who carry out vital tasks in support
of training and other club activities. These are also to be
found on the Who’s Who page.
Over the years members have participated in expeditions
to various locations in Europe and beyond.
Currently bi-annual visits are made to Aboyne in
Scotland, where members are able to experience wave
flying to great heights not available in England and to
Shobdon for ridge flying
In 2000 members took the duo discus to Ontur (near
Alicante) in Spain.
Members also shipped gliders to
Mafeking South Africa.
Club K21 over France - 1985
Training Opportunities at Booker Gliding Club
club can only survive through a strong membership, and one way of
ensuring a continual flow of new members is through an extensive
programme of training courses. Details of these are also to be found
Booker web site.
Glider Fleet at Booker
Over the years the glider fleet at Booker consisted of:
In the '60s
T21s & Swallows - using a winch launch
Late '60s 3
Ka7s Skylark 2, 3 Olympia 2 (Thames Valley, Post Office club &
Cisavia), 3 Skylark 3s and a Skylark 4 K13, Ka6CR
Early 70s 2
Pirats, 2 Pilatus B4s, Bocian, Motor Falke, K6e, Dart 17R
Mid '70s YS
Ka 8, Jantar 1, Astir Jeans, Twin Astir.
Today’s Club fleet:
K13 (3 off), K21 (2 off), Duo Discus
K18 (2 off), Junior (2 off), Pegasus (2 off), Discus
Motor glider –
Tug Fleet at
been a number of different aircraft used as tugs at Booker
First tug -
2 or 3 Austers
hp) converted Auster with Lycombing, built by BEA apprentices.
Cub 150 hp
(later converted to 180 hp)
fleet at Booker: Piper Cub; Piper Pawnee and Robin (2 off)
In writing this brief history of the BGC, I am indebted to
a number of members (past and present) for their help in providing
information, either in the form of old Newsletters, articles or
their recollections of the past. In particular I would like to thank
Peter Hearne Vice President BGA for his detailed contribution on the
transition of the airfield from an RAF site to one dedicated to
gliding. Also I thank Gerry Leech for loaning me every Newsletter
from issues 1, and a number of old slides that I have posted on the
album page of the BGC web site and Andy Baker and Harold
Fletcher for supplying me with
information and some unique photographs from the early years of
gliding at the Wycombe Air Centre.
at 12th April, 1976
following charges are current as from the above date which is the
beginning of the Thames Valley Gliding Clubs, (T.V.G.C), financial
year, but it should be noted that the launch and soaring charges are
subject to revision during the year.
full member is automatically a member of the Wycombe Gliding School,
and is entitled to use the Clubhouse bar facilities. The following
charges are for basic guidance only to persons who may wish to join
the club, and are quoted inclusive of V.A.T. Further and more
comprehensive and updated details are available from the Gliding
Office at Wycombe Air Park.
Membership Aged 18 and over
Aped under 18
Annual Subscription - 1st Apr-3lst
Mar £35.00 £17.50
Half Yearly Subscription - 1st Oct-3lst
Mar £20.00 £10.00
Last Quarterly Subscription - 1st Jan-3lst
Mar £10.00 £5.00
Associate Membership (non-flying)
subscription £10.00, and subject to individual written application
and approval by the T.V.G.C. Committee.
scheme is available to approved Universities and Colleges sporting
unions or associations for Group block membership. The scheme is
open on a yearly basis only, and as with admission, is operated
entirely at the discretion of the T.V.G.C. Committee. Further
details may be obtained by applying to “The Chairman, T.V.G.C.”,
Wycombe Air Park, Booker, Marlow, Bucks.
2000’ and to a maximum soaring time of 15 minutes. The cost quoted
includes the day membership fee of £1.10, and any further flights in
that day will be reduced accordingly £4.70
Minimum launch to 1400’ charged
and for each additional 200’ a charge of 3Op.
Thus to a height of 2000’ charged
Are calculated up to the nearest 5
and are charged at rate per hour
of £2.40 £1.80
During training, the average flight will be to a
height of 2000’, and, if the weather is not soarable, of 15 minutes
duration. Thus, the total cost will be £3.00 for the launch plus
6Op. for the flying time, a total of £3.60. After having gone solo,
the time and distance that can be flown is limited only by
experience and the weather, and when you stay airborne for 2 hours
the cost including a launch to 2000’ is a mere £3.30 per hour
Harold Builds Plane in his Garage
Copy of an article published in the Maidenhead
Advertiser on 11 October 1985
The article was written by the daughter of Peggy, his
partner, when a cub on the Maidenhead Advertiser.
IMPOSSIBLE is not a
word which figures prominently in the vocabulary of a
60 year old
Indeed, the philosophy
Harold Fletcher, who
18 months ago embarked
on a project to build a
in a makeshift workshop
at his home, is: “You can
do anything you want to
do in life.”
Mr. Fletcher started the project only with
plans, sent from America
and designed by Burt
Buten, who has ensured
that homebuilt aircraft
have really taken off on
the other side of the Atlantic.
The plane which has caught Mr.
Fletcher's imagination is the
Long-F7, which goes back to the
original Wright configuration
of the early Canard design with the engine at the rear.
The two-seater plane is both
fast and efficient and
holds the world record for 5,000 miles nonstop flying.
“The average light
plane does 120 m.p.h.
and uses about 8-10
an hour to do it,” explained Mr. Fletcher, “But
this will fly at 200 m.p.h.
for about four gallons. So
it is cheaper than motoring!"
The idea of building the plane stemmed from a conversation with a
business associate who had always wanted to build a plane but did
not have the time.
“I had always wanted to build a plane but hadn’t got the money so we
both got together and this is the result” Mr. Fletcher told the
His first task was to
build a workshop, measuring just 8 ft. by 20 ft., at his Marlow
It had to be properly insulated and heated ensure
the right conditions for the complex processes to follow.
“It was a month's work just
making up all the bits and
pieces before I could even
start building, as we are not geared up at
all to homebuilding in this
country” continued Mr. Fletcher.
His basic material was
foam, cut from blocks
using templates and then joined
together before fibre-glassing.
During the building process the mand
the humidity regulated to
etal parts, which also have to
be specially made, are incorporated and the foam
carved into shape by hand.
But the most impressive work lies in the highly
sophisticated instrumentation, which enables the plane to
land at any airport in the world. Mr. Fletcher designed
the instrument panel, which
includes a VOR — a piece
of equipment whichfinds direction
anywhere in the world from
With a glass-fibre
plane radar reflection can
be difficult, so it has
a transponder which reacts
to signals sent out by
radar at airports and
sends out signals giving
information about the plane.
Also unusual in a small
aircraft is an independent landing system, a great
advantage in had weather.
It is equipped with four navigation and communication
units, as well as the more usual instrumentation. The whole
system is computerised and voice operated.
The aircraft is
powered by a Cessna Lycoming
from a plane which
crashed in the sea and totally
rebuilt by Ted Moslin at Henley. It is now a zero-rated
engine, with some 2,000hours of flying ahead of it.
Throughout the project,
the work has been closely monitored and certified by a Popular
Flying Association Inspector,
who is registered with the
Civil Aviation Authority.
The aircraft has now
been painted and sprayed,
and the final touches are being
added this week. These
include a logo and name G.
LUKE, after the son of the
business associate who funded the project.
The complicated task
of working out the centre
of gravity, the weight the
plane can carry and so on
will be next on the schedule.
“Within the next week we are hoping to fly it for
the first time from Booker where
it will be kept” said Mr. Fetcher.
Although he flew and parachuted with the Royal
Engineers during the war, it was
not until relatively late in his life that he became
fascinated by flight. He began gliding only about 20 years ago, but
rapidly gained experience and qualifications. He became
chief instructor at the Booker gliding club
and manager of the gliding
section, his expertise
being featured later in
films like the Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines
and the Blue Max.
But Harold Fletcher is
an extraordinary man and
the Long-EZ project is not the first he has attempted that others
would think impossible.
After the war, he
worked as a freelance photographer both in Fleet
St and locally. He set up
his own business in Marlow,
H. W. Fletcher Photography, and
designed and built all the printing equipment.
Some 10 years ago he
moved to Cornwall,
where he built his own
house. “I did the garage first
to find out how to do it,” he laughed.
And on returning to Marlow,
he designed and built his home in Marlow Bottom.
member of Marlow Town Band, he had
always been interested in
music but was unable to play a keyboard.
“I bought a small
cheap organ and was so dissatisfied I started altering
it. I then found where I
could get the material to build organs and built myself one”
With his experience as
an electronics engineer,
his hobby snowballed, the last
and most complicated organ incorporating five computers.
There seems to be no
holding Mr. Fletcher back,
and it is unlikely he will
rest on his laurels with the
completion of the LongEZ.
“There is talk about building a
four-seater twin-engine plane.
“But that will need a
lot more space -- and a lot
A Rutan Long-EZ in flight
Return to Booker Gliding HOME Page
Return to Booker Gliding Club Information page
A brief early history of Wycombe Air
by Barry Abraham
In July 1939 plans were approved by the local authority to build an
aerodrome (airfield was then North American terminology) on high
ground to the south west of High Wycombe. With thoughts of an impending
war already to the fore, the intention was for the airfield to be used
for Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve training and there is no record of
any pre-war civilian use. The RAF had decided back in 1934 that its own
flying training schools would concentrate on advanced training and that
elementary training of pupil pilots would be carried out by civilian
schools. Number 1 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School was
operated at Hatfield aerodrome by the De Havilland Aircraft Company.
Among a number of other similar schools was Number 50 ERFTS, operated at
Booker by Wetton Aviation Limited flying Tiger Moths, Hawker Audax and
On the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939, the Booker school, in
common with all civilian operated schools, was closed down. At this
stage Booker was simply a grass aerodrome with little in the way of
facilities, and it lay dormant until it was decided to open Number 21
Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) there in June 1941, operated by
Airwork and flying Tiger Moths (72 were flown in) and Miles Magisters.
The four Bellman hangers were built. Designed by a Mr N S Bellman in
1936 they were intended to be temporary, although those at Booker are
only now being replaced, more than 50 years later.
Number 21 EFTS opened with 120 pupils on a seven week course - this
was later extended to 11 weeks. In May 1942 training started for the
Glider Pilot Regiment, (after the war Number 21 EFTS also took over
responsibility for Army Glider Pilot and Air Observation Post elementary
training). In July 1943 alone, 5576 hours were flown of which 442 were
at night. Inevitably there were quite a few crashes and some fatalities.
By 1955 the four wartime grass runways (north/south 3300 feet, north
east/south west 3600 feet, east/west 2610 feet and south east/north west
2400 feet) had been joined by a 90 foot wide pierced steel planking hard
runway 07/25 (2700 feet). There was also a VDF homer, Eureka (an early
form of DME), approach and tower radio on 130.86 MHz. All lighting was
portable. In August 1953 the University of London Air Squadron had
resumed flying - at Booker, and the airfield also hosted the Manchester
and Liverpool University Air Squadrons during 1954. The RAF continued to
use the airfield for some time - Bomber Command Communications Flight
was based at Booker until 1963. In 1965 Airways Aero Associations - the
forerunner of the British Airways Flying Club - was formed with
membership initially restricted to the then BEA and BOAC personnel and
in 1967 Tony Gyselynck opened Wycombe Air Centre operating Condors, and
later, Cessna 150s and 172s. Today British Airways operates the airfield
under lease from Wycombe District Council and, through its subsidiary,
Airways Aero Associations, provides the facilities such as ATC, rescue
and fire fighting services, fuel, ground handling and lighting. The
airfield is very active with the original fixed wing operations now
joined by helicopter training provided by British Airways and
Barry Abraham is an aviation historian and chairman of the
Airfield Research Group.
This article first appeared in Centreline, newsletter of Wycombe Air