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About M-ASA, a Brief History (The Beginnings)
THE EARLY YEARS OF MASA By Jack Perine (Reprinted from CONVECTOR, February 1978)
In the past few years various members of the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association have suggested that I write a history of our club. Fully realizing my shortcomings as a writer, and because the HP-11 sailplane was in its final stages of construction, I was reluctant to undertake the task. But when Bob Schott asked me recently to write it for the Soaring Convention issue, I felt that if nobody else would do it, then I would, and deserve to be completely forgiven for the way it turns out.
As soon as I started, I realized that the week and a half allotted was not enough time for me to contact those who, since our move to Frederick, had become close to those historic events that have more recently occurred, such as our Frederick lease and hangar construction, and the dram atic acquisition of Fairfield Airport. To cover 27 years of activity in just these few pages, and considering the time available, would have given us a sketchy history indeed. So I have chosen to write about our "learning and struggling year", the 14 years span of events that started in 1952 at Martinsburg, and ended at our arrival at Frederick in 1966.
It may be of interest to barely touch on some of the gliding activities that have preceded us in the Washington area.
In the early 1930's, airline pilot Shelly Charles operated an open primary glider from auto-tow at the old Washington-Hoover Airport (where the Pentagon stands today). His flights were usually of short duration before an appreciative Sunday afternoon crowd. In 1933, Richard du Pont made a 122 mile flight from Waynesboro, Va. to Frederick, Md. In the late 1930's, Peter Riedel, the Air Attache at the German Embassy operated a "Kranich" sailplane from College Park, Md.
The most prominent pre-war club was the Washington Glider Club which operated a "Franklyn Utility" from Congressional Airport where the Congressional Shopping Center in Rockville is today. One of its members was entertainer Arthur Godfrey.
Another club was the Engineering Research Corp. Club, the builders of the pre-war "Ercoupe" who operated at the old Hybla Valley airport. Memberships were $12, and my first solo while in 2nd year high school was in their primary glider.
Then came the war, and most gliders were taken over by the government, and the owners compensated for them. Peter Riedel's beautiful "Kranich" was said to have rotted to pieces. The war itself greatly helped soaring get off the ground, so to speak. The German invasion of Crete utilizing gliders spurred our military to become glider-minded, and for training purposes purchased quantities of militarized version of the pre-war Schweizer SGS 2-8 and the Laister-Kauffmann "Yankee Doodle." Designed during the war was the Schweizer TG-3 and the Pratt-Read LNE-1. Eventually the military found that these were all of too high performance to be useful as trainers for troop gliders, and after little use, most were put in storage and sold as surplus during the closing months of the war.
The importance of this cannot be over-emphasized. This availability of two-place high performance sailplanes at a price that many could afford, even in those money-scarce postwar days made it possible for many clubs on a limited budget to form and successfully operate. Such was MASA. It may be of interest in view of today's $18,000 sailplanes that the surplus Pratt-Read, brand new and on trailer sold for $350.
The first post-war club, which can likely be called the predecessor of MASA, was the Washington Soaring Club, formed around 3 Pratt-Read's and a Laister-Kauffmann. This group operated in 1946-1948 at the old Schrom Airport at Greenbelt, and present MASA members who were members of that club are Bill Ebert and myself. There were about 8 active members , and when the club disbanded after a few years, one Pratt-Read, NG0745, was sold to a newly forming group called the District of Columbia Soaring Club. Nate Frank was one of its members.
To publicize gliding, this club held the first Mid-Atlantic Soaring Contest at Beacon Field on August 4, 5, 6, 1949. Beacon Field was then on US-1 just south of Alexandria, and probably in part due to its close proximity of Washington, the meet received unequalled newspaper coverage. Flying was of a local nature for the benefit of the spectators. Points were given for duration, altitude gain, and spot landings. The meet was won by Kim Scribner of Flushing, New York. Kim thrilled the crowd with low-level glider aerobatics such as slow rolls on tow and outside loops in his Schweizer 1-23 sailplane. Twelve pilots competed for the championship.