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Shalbourne Gliding: historic Jacob's Ladder takes to the skies again

A VINTAGE glider built in Newbury has taken to the skies again after being lovingly repaired.

Manufactured in 1947, the Olympia 1 craft, named Jacob’s Ladder, had been forgotten and left to rot.

It was acquired by Shalbourne Gliding club member Bill Cook in September 2014, who set about restoring it to its former glory.

After almost seven years work, it was able to soar above West Berkshire once more.

The glider was built by Elliotts of Newbury, a significant local employer manufacturing mouldings and furniture.

During the Second World War, production was switched to aircraft components and the troop-carrying Horsa glider.

At the end of the war, Elliotts continued to manufacture gliders and Jacob’s Ladder was one of them.

Another Shalbourne Gliding member, Stephen Ottner, revealed that over the years some of the glider’s exploits were reported in Sailplane and Gliding magazine.

One such report from 1958 concerned a pilot attempting a 300km flight to gain his internationally recognised Gold Badge.

He landed 30km short of his goal.

However, it occurred to him that he must have covered considerably more than 300km on his trip as his route had included Gillingham in Kent, but he needed proof he had got there.

In those days observation from the ground was the main way of confirming a distance flight.

Mr Ottner revealed that, while the pilot couldn’t hope for identification at 5,000ft, there had been some low spots on the flight between Devizes and Gillingham and he decided to go to Wiltshire to investigate.

After various hopeful, but ultimately futile, leads a major from the Irish Guards revealed he had seen the glider and offered 100 further witnesses if needed.

The pilot got his Gold Badge.

Shalbourne Gliding is based at Rivar Hill at the top of the ridge to the south of Shalbourne and has members aged 14 to 84 years.

The club welcomes new members.

For more information visit www.shalbournegliding.co.uk

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