Slope Soaring and Record Flights

Coorabel Range - 1936

Pegasus, the first successful Australian two-seater sailplane

In the first week of 1936, members of the Brisbane Gliding Club took their three sailplanes and a winch to Byron Bay. The members had been flying circuits in the sailplanes from Eagle Farm Aerodrome for some time and considered that it was time to attempt some slope soaring. They had discovered a site on the Coorabel Range about 10 miles inland from Byron Bay where a ridge 600 ft high offered a beat of several miles in an onshore wind. Their three gliders named Pegasus, Robin and Miss Queensland were taken to the site by trailer and the camp was set up on top of the ridge.

The field was small but adequate, and although launches could be made only to a few hundred feet, this was sufficient to contact the lift along the ridge. Several successful though unspectacular soaring flights were made and club members gained valuable experience.

Another expedition to the Coorabel Range was planned for the following year. A group of 28 members and friends set out from Brisbane on Boxing Day 1936. Pegasus had been fitted with a two way radio and on a number of flights was able to exchange messages with members on the ground. This added to the interest and excitement of the flying.

The first good soaring day was Monday, 28 December 1936 when the wind gave good lift along a beat of about 3 miles. With a friend as passenger, Ted Parr soared in Pegasus for 49 minutes, establishing an Australian record for two-seater sailplanes. A maximum height of 1500 feet was achieved during the flight.

Friday1st of January, 1937, produced a good soaring wind and Ted Parr decided to make an attempt to raise the two-seater record with a really worthwhile flight. A young local lad, aged about 12 years, had been very active in helping the club members during their holiday camp and Parr invited him to occupy the rear seat of the sailplane during the flight. Lift was good along the slope and Parr had no trouble staying up, he finally landed after five hours 1 minute, having reached a maximum height of 2000 feet, to find he had established a new Australian duration record for sailplanes

While Pegasus had been soaring, Doug Henderson was launched in Robin and also achieved a maximum of 2000 feet. He landed after three hours 15 minutes because he developed cramp in his right arm which interfered with his flying. This flight exceeded the previous best solo flight by a glider in Australia, breaking the record set by Howard Morris in 1931.

The club members were delighted with these achievements and rightly proud of the pilots involved. The gliding camp was to be crowned, however, by yet another record. On Sunday 3rd January, the final day of the camp, Billy Spiller set the duration record for a woman pilot in Australia by soaring Pegasus for 75 minutes with Ted Parr as passenger.

Coorabel Ridge - opposite Mullumbimby
Article contributed by Christopher McDonnell (Gympie)
Sources: Doug and Elaine Henderson
Brisbane Telegraph, Geoff Richardson 

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