Vintage flight for Owen’s ‘baby’

Ulster Gliding Club tug master Ted Norman, left, with Owen Anderson and his son Darragh. (3108PG02)

Ulster Gliding Club tug master Ted Norman, left, with Owen Anderson and his son Darragh. (3108PG02)

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Self-confessed “gliding anorak” Owen Anderson will take to the sky over the Roe Valley on Sunday for a flight with a distinct vintage feel. 

The Magilligan man’s aircraft, an Olympia 2B, weighing just 196 kilos, was built in 1947 by Elliots of Newbury, England. It crashed and split in two just two months after it was bought in the late 1950s by its first owner and met a similar fate a further five times since! 

In 2009, Owen, who has been flying gliders for more than 30 years, saw it for sale on the internet. Within days he went to Devon and returned with the glider. Purchase price was £750 and its condition “fairly poor”, says Owen, a gliding instructor and technical officer with the Ulster Gliding Club in Bellarena. 

Three years on, and the glider is restored and ready for the sky for the first time in 24 years. 

“I had to rebuild the tail plane, and that took four months alone,” he said. “Everything had to be re-done; the cockpit, the wings, everything. It was hard work, but I enjoyed it. It’s definitely been worth it.” 

The glider’s design was for the 1939 Olympic Games, but the war intervened and it meant the design lay dormant until after the Second World War. There were only 150 ‘Olympia’ gliders built. Owen’s is number ‘123’.

While Owen has had modern gliders, this is his first vintage craft. 

It has 2001 flying hours on the log book, since being registered in March 1959 with The Derbyshire and Lancashire Club. Crash number one was in May that year and it took a week to repair. 

“Crashes were par for the course in them days, as club gliders were used a lot and had a tough life,” said the 41-year-old. “But now that it’s in private hands with myself and Bernard Silk from Dublin, it will have a better life.”

With its 49-foot wing span and 30-foot-long fuselage, the sleek glider, in its pale cream and blue paintwork, will have its first flight, post restoration, this weekend. 

“It’s 24 years since she flew. It should be good, exhilarating. I just hope the weather is right.” 

So has he a name for what he calls his ‘baby’.

“I think she looks like a lady, curvy and elegant. I think I’ll have to fly her for a while before I name her. She’s beautiful and looks different than all the other gliders in the air. It’s been well worth the 100-plus hours I put into it.” 

Owen thanked the Ulster Gliding Club for allowing him to store the glider at the hangar, and says people are welcome to come and have a look at the craft. 

For information about the Ulster Gliding Club call 028 777 50301 or log onto ulsterglidingclub.org