Vintage Sailplanes

The World’s Vintage Sailplanes

  This book began as a series of articles I wrote for the magazine, Australian Gliding, which I edited for  ten years between 1969 and 1980. Sometimes when I was short of material I filled in the blank pages with my own writing. My descriptions of famous old sailplanes, with photographs and three-view drawings, proved popular. I had been collecting the necessary background and pictures ever since childhood so had no lack of information. Some of my material was reprinted by magazines in other countries, especially the French Aviasport, the American Soaring and National Soaring Museum and the international Vintage Glider Club News. I thought it would be interesting to make a complete book. I reworked all the drawings to as high a standard as I could with pen and ink and added more to a total of ninety five.

A typical page: The Karakan was an outstanding Hungarian sailplane of 1934-5. Click on the image to get an enlarged, readable copy.

When I thought the book was ready, early in 1982, I approached several possible aviation publishers. Most thought such a book would not appeal to the market and turned me down. Geoff Pentland, of Kookaburra Technical Publications in Melbourne was one of these. An English publisher was prepared to do a smaller book including only a dozen of the most famous gliders. I was on the point of signing a contract with this company when Pentland wrote again to say he had changed his mind and would like to publish the whole thing.

A straightforward contract was agreed and signed. I did the design and layout, which an author is not normally expected to do.

There followed a period of four years worry and delay. Pentland’s behaviour, to say the least, was inexplicable during this period. There was at least one attempt to pirate my work by selling extracts and drawings to commercial magazines. Most reluctantly I sought legal advice and after further evasions and frustration issued a writ. Pentland was fined several times by the court for failing to respond to the ensuing legal requirements and demands.

We arrived at last in the Supreme Court of South Australia. The judgment was in my favour and I was awarded $8000.00 in costs. The book was published at last in 1986. There were still ways for things to go wrong. Pentland made little attempt to market the work and sold a copy only when he received a personal mail order with payment. He would not accept bulk orders from retailers and offended some who approached him, by the tone of his replies.

He became sick, and died in 2008. His widow was left with a large unsold stock.

The book itself is still held in high regard by people who have been able to find a copy.

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