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Horse-launched sailplane

Horse-launched sailplane

Aug. 21, 1939: Horses are used to launch motorless sailplane at Grand Central Flying School in Glendale.

For this blog, usually I post images produced by the Los Angeles Times staff. But this is one of those wire service images I just had to share.

When this Associated Press photo was published in the Aug. 22, 1939 Los Angeles Times, an accompanying story reported:

A man who builds 8000-horsepower, multi-engined airplanes yesterday stood on the sidelines at Grand Central Air Terminal (in Glendale) while a motorless machine generating “two horsepower” slid into the skies.

The horses were real.

And the man was Glenn L. Martin, maker of mighty seaplanes and fighting ships, who admits, after almost 30 years, to a yen to fly alone again.

Along the runway stretching in front of Joe Plosser’s Grand Central Flying School, horsemen of Los Charros, association of hard-riding film, radio and ranch folk, took their positions.

Four were for “atmosphere.”

Two held the long rope attached ‘o the peapod cockpit of Hawley Bowlus’s sleek San Fernando-made sailplane. At the signal, they spurred like mad. And while Martin, North American Aviation Co. officials and air minded Hollywood cinema men watched, the noiseless craft soared to the length of its halter.

When the glider returned, Martin asked to be permitted to sit at its simple controls.

“Not much like your bombers, is it Mr. Martin?” asked Bowlus.

The manufacturer smiled.

“Our ships–yours and mine–all have their place. Sailplaning is a grand sport that really teaches the theory of flight. With the clipped winged, heavily powered, heavily loaded military craft used today, knowledge of thermals and wind currents and the art of flying without engines comes in mighty handy in emergencies.”…

Today (1939) soaring enthusiasts maintain 800 clubs throughout the United States; they have climbed to 20,000 feet, winged silently almost 300 miles across country. Yesterday’s test proved that horses, galloping at 30 m.p.h. over ground where motorcar launching of sailplanes is unfeasible, can be put into useful operation.

The Grand Central Air Terminal, also known as Grand Central Airport, was closed in 1959.

The Glenn L. Martin Co. produced the twin-engine B-26 Marauder bomber during World War II.

1 Comment

  1. May 26, 2013, 2:03 am

    Great Story…thanks for sharing.

    By: R.T. Fitch

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