Tom Knauff Reviews New Book about Wally Scott


The Life of Soaring Legend Wally Scott

By Samantha Hilbert Thomas

[Editor's note:  Additional information about this book can be found here.]

Tom Knauff and Doris Grove

Doris and I are among the many glider pilots who got to know Wally Scott during semi-annual treks to soaring contests in Texas and New Mexico.

One of the interesting characteristics of glider pilot acquaintances is that it really does not matter what you do in “real life.” You could be a doctor or lawyer, butcher or baker, Indian chief or candlestick maker – none of this matters. It is only about how you fly.

The book begins with Wally’s early family history in small towns of West Texas, where the family tried different ventures before moving to Iraan, Texas and opening a movie theater. The family moved to Odessa, Texas some ten years later and opened still another movie theater.

Wally learned to fly in a Piper j-2, and advanced to being a flight instructor earning the impressive amount of $300 per month. In January 1944, he joined the Ferry Command of the Army Air Corps and successfully flew a variety of cargo aircraft on missions in Europe and across the Himalayas into China.

In a lifetime of personal adventures, a writer must choose which stories to tell. For me, the stories of these very young men being thrust into the hazards of war is so compelling; I wish there was more detail about Wally’s experiences during this part of his life. But it is a minor complaint.

Two-thirds of the book is about Wally’s amazing glider flying experiences. Because the movie business was primarily a night time endeavor, he was able to fly on most good flying days. He became so enamored with glider flying that he would begin each day climbing to the roof and looking south and east for the best soaring days.

Wally Scott and Ben Greene in front of a map showing their 716.95 mile record flight from Odessa, TX to Columbus, NE on July 26, 1970

Aero tows cost $3 but he often used the less expensive auto tow from the local airport as he discovered the sport of soaring and realized the possibilities.

The remainder of the book concentrates on his glider flying achievements, of which there were many. As I read through the stories, I could hear the West Texas accent of Wally come through loud and clear.

His wife, “Boots” was well known among the glider community, and played an important role in Wally’s life and the stories the book passes on to its readers. Numerous photographs help the reader imagine what life was like  with Wally and Boots.

A highly recommended book for your soaring library.


Wally Scott in Schweizer 1-26 over hangars at north side of Odessa-Schlemeyer Airport


  2 comments for “Tom Knauff Reviews New Book about Wally Scott

  1. April 6, 2011 at 3:44 am

    Awesome book, I devoured it in about a day. Of course I've always read everything I could from Wally, and am a fellow free distance nut. Maybe I need to start a movie theater…

  2. Gerard the kiwi
    December 27, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Movie theatres seem like a great career for glider pilots, as there’s lots of time during the day to fly. I’ve just given myself the book for Christmas and really must thank myself for making a good choice.

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