This article first appeared in in SoaringNZ Magazine. SoaringNZ is the official journal of Gliding New Zealand (GNZ). It is published quarterly and distributed to all GNZ members. Soaring Cafe is delighted to announce that we have a entered into a collaborative relationship with SoaringNZ Magazine to bring some of their articles to our readers--this article about Yvonne Loader is the first fruits from this collaboration. — Ed.
The FAI Tissandier Diploma, established by the FAI in 1952, is named after Mr. Paul Tissandier, Secretary General of FAI from 1919 to 1945. It is awarded to those who have served the cause of Aviation in general and Sporting Aviation in particular, by their work, initiative, devotion or in other ways.
New Zealand glider pilot Yvonne Loader is a well-known and loved personality, tow pilot, instructor, mentor and fundraiser extraordinaire. In 2012, GNZ recognised her lifetime of selfless involvement in the sport by awarding her the Angus Rose Bowl, New Zealand’s premier gliding award. They then went on to nominate her for the Tissandier Diploma via the NZ Aero Club.
The citation for the award read: Yvonne Loader has been a glider pilot and a tow pilot for 40 years. In January 1988, Yvonne achieved a gain of height of 10,212m, which remains a Feminine World Record today.
Not only is Yvonne an accomplished glider pilot, tow pilot and gliding instructor, she is a volunteer extraordinaire, and she does it all with grace, humour and a big smile. For most new members and many airfield visitors, Yvonne is the first contact with the club, welcoming everybody open-heartedly and introducing them to the other members. She has been secretary for two gliding clubs, simultaneously, for many years and during that time has been extraordinarily successful in raising funds for purchasing equipment for the club gliders and the development of club facilities. In the last three years, Yvonne has been pivotal in securing sponsorship for the Youth Soaring Development Camps, recently inaugurated, and in actively assisting with their administration.
At national and regional gliding competitions, Yvonne will generally be one of the tow pilots launching the grid each day, and sometimes acts as a crew member for a competing pilot.
During her entire gliding career, Yvonne Loader has devoted her personal time to administration of the sport, usually to the detriment of her own flying time.
That citation was prepared by Gliding New Zealand who only had details on Yvonne’s gliding history but she had been very active in aviation outside of gliding as well. Her aviation voluntary service started at the Canterbury Aero Club in the early 1970s, serving on the Members Services Committee, Executive Committee and as Club Captain over more than ten years. She also spent a number of years on the NZ Airwomen's Association (now called the NZ Association of Women in Aviation) Executive and served as the President for three years. She was also Chairman of the committee that organised the first international aviation event to be held in NZ.
In September, Yvonne travelled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to attend the FAI Awards ceremony and collect her diploma in person. It is wonderful to see international recognition for all the hours of work that Yvonne puts into our sport.
My own friendship with Yvonne began with my involvement with the Canterbury Gliding Club more than twenty years ago. I already knew of Yvonne and her record breaking achievements, through the pages of the Gliding Kiwi. It was wonderful to meet such an inspirational woman pilot and discover that she was down to earth and happy to share her experience and joy of flying with me. Over the years, we’ve become friends and in the years in which I was not flying, due to the financial and other pressures of being an at-home mother, Yvonne helped me keep my love for the sport alive. We had a standing date for a good long cross country flight every summer at Omarama. This was often the only flight I did in that year and Yvonne made sure it was a good one. We called ourselves ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’. The Ladies finally achieved their goal of reaching Mt Cook about two years ago. Since I have returned to active flying, Yvonne has been helping me reactivate my cross country status and generally encouraging me to fly.
I keep discovering new things about this amazing woman. Just recently, I learnt that Yvonne was a highly skilled (power) competition pilot with multiple wins in forced landing contests before taking up gliding. Of course those skills transferred really well to gliding when she decided to give that a try.
I knew Yvonne was an amazing glider pilot and I was in awe of the fact that she was also an accomplished power pilot, but it wasn’t until I joined the CGC committee that I started to see what other skills she possessed. Yvonne is a committee member extraordinaire. She was (and still is) doing amazing things for CGC, and she was on the committee of OGC too. When Youth Glide gained momentum and the Youth Soaring Development Camp came into being, Yvonne moved up another notch and flung herself into fundraising for these projects. If anyone wants to know anything about applying for grants (and there is apparently lots of money out there just waiting to be tapped into) then Yvonne is the person to talk to.
Yvonne has mentored and befriended many glider pilots over the years. However CGC President Kevin Bethwaite also acknowledges the fantastic public relations work Yvonne has done for the club, simply by being the wonderful person she is. “We are a stereotyped lot and Yvonne has been outstanding in presenting a completely different message to the non -gliding public. I've heard my wife Lyn say, Yvonne is an inspiration to her and I understand this. We've had many committee meetings at my home and Yvonne is always family friendly, noticing little things (in the house) and making Lyn very relaxed. In club circles on the airfield, we have in the past had alpha males locking horns and Yvonne's presence has been of enormous help in nullifying these personalities, making our club so much better. The CGC we want is FAMILY FRIENDLY and Yvonne is a champion in this area.”
Yvonne Loader is an extremely worthy recipient of this award…
Yvonne Loader tells her story in her own words.
Our dear friend Peter Shand encouraged my husband Bruce to commence flying lessons. Bruce already had his Private Pilot’s license when I started learning to fly in January 1972. It cost $7.00 an hour, as compared to around $170 an hour today. I enjoyed my flying lessons but when I was coerced into entering the Canterbury Aero Club’s Student Pilot Junior landing competition on the 9th September 1973, it changed my flying focus into a whole new area.
I thought entering a flying competition was a ridiculous idea and totally unthinkable but I reluctantly agreed. By the time my turn came I was totally relaxed, thinking this was the silliest thing I could imagine doing and the sooner I got it over with, the better. Much to my surprise, I came 2nd in the Junior Landing event.
Of course it started some thinking – if I gained 2nd place maybe I could make 1st place. In the next competition I came 2nd again and in the one after that made 1st place. It was a competition based on aggregated points over a year. I was told I could not win the trophy as I had started two competitions behind the other competitors but it didn’t matter. I went on to win a few more times and had caught up to be six points behind the leader by the final competition. I flew reasonably well and he completely missed the grid on the second circuit so I ended up the winner of the Junior Landing Shield by 20 points – the first ever trophy I had won in my entire life.
I was then encouraged to join the NZ Association of Women in Aviation, attending my first Rally at Rotorua as a Student pilot. It was very exciting to win the Non-instrument circuit and gain two seconds in the Navigation and the Student Circuit and Landing, and won the trophy for being the top Student. In two of these events I was competing against more experienced Private Pilots.
I entered my first RNZAC South Island Rally in the Women’s precision circuit event and came 2nd by one point. I would have come first if I had remembered to put the flaps down but in my nervousness, I forgot to do this on both circuits. It is extremely difficult to do a non-flapped approach to a mark, so I had really stacked it against myself.
The following year, I attended my second NZAWA Rally. I remember looking at the trophies on display, gazing at the Top Aviatrix award – well, I would never win that. Much to my surprise, I won every event I entered and won the Top Pilot Aggregate trophy. That was tremendously exciting. It was great meeting women interested in flying and I made many friends, ultimately serving as the Association’s President. Friends I have made through the NZ Association of Women in Aviation include the first woman pilot taken on by Air NZ and the widow of the co-pilot of the DC10 that crashed on Erebus, and many inspirational women who made their mark in NZ’s aviation history.
I became very competitive, putting in hours of practice, setting my sights on what trophies I wanted to win during the year and without fail I achieved my goals. I mainly competed in Precision circuits, navigation, instrument and non-instrument flying and forced landing events. At times it meant getting up at 4am and getting out to the airport for some early morning practice on the day of the competition but it paid off. Competing in Canterbury Aero Club competitions, in a very competitive environment, was tremendous for improving flying skills and I continued to compete in NZ Association of Women in Aviation competitions and RNZAC National championships, where I was National Champion three times. In 1980 I won nine trophies, 1981, 7 trophies and it continued for ten years, with the Forced Landing event being my forte, winning quite a number of national events and trophies.
In this era, it was very rare for a woman to be competing and I was frequently the only woman competitor. As you can imagine, the men did not take kindly to being beaten by a woman and it sent them into a frenzy of high expenditure on practice sessions and discussing numerous bar inspired strategies to beat me. I always had to do my flying on a budget, so my practice sessions were done in the two weeks prior to the event.
In 1975, a member of the gliding club thought Bruce and I would be a good keen flying couple to get involved in the gliding club and an invitation was extended to Bruce to become a tow pilot. Bruce did some towing and found it was something he really enjoyed. I was bored as hell watching everyone else flying and decided to get my towing rating too and so our involvement in the gliding club began.
As part of the towing rating, we were required to do a couple of glider flights and it just didn’t grab me, until I took off one day in a single seat glider. There was a big cumulus cloud over Wigram and I let off from tow and, without any idea of what was happening, was in strong lift up to the cloud base at 7,000ft. This was beautiful and that started my love affair with gliding. I saw a power plane fly beneath me and thought “you have no idea what you are missing”. Soaring is so much better than a noisy engine.
Now I had two passions in flying – competitions and gliding and I was torn in half. I would get up early – fly down to Ashburton or over to Rangiora, quickly do my four or five different competitions, fly to Wigram to glide and at the last minute, fly back to ChCh airport before Civil evening twilight. It was a real tug of war, as it didn’t matter where I was - I wanted to be gliding.
Around this time, I was doing a huge amount of flying. I was working at the Christchurch Airport and was using aircraft as most people use their cars. On several occasions I even flew myself to the toilet!! Imagine being on Birch Hill airfield with an all-male film crew. We were working on the gliding segment of a documentary “Free over the Alps” and a Benson and Hedges advertisement. There was not a building, bush or tree in sight. I had no choice but to fly over to the main Mt Cook Airport, use the toilet and fly back – a distance of 1 nm! My flying in that era included Air Show displays, dual towing newly arrived gliders from Auckland to Christchurch and towing gliders to various parts of the country for demonstration purposes. There were also occasions where gliders needed to be retrieved from as far away as Gisborne, following World record flights. When the Nationals were on at Matamata, I towed two gliders all the way there and back, with one of the wives and all our luggage in the heavily loaded Cessna with me.
Pilots asked me to ferry their aircraft, retrieve aircraft, re-position, take their staff somewhere – all manner of flying on a variety of types, all adding quickly to an accumulation of hours and experience - and then there were the fun times. I well remember landing a Piper Cub in the Ahuriri river bed to spend some time sun bathing in peace and on-lookers asking if we had crashed! I loved flying over fresh snow on the mountains in the winter time too.
It was nothing to be at Wanaka – look at my watch at midday and think it was time I got airborne to get to work at the Christchurch International Airport by 2pm. I frequently flew to work – very convenient it was to land, park the aircraft and be at work. The only drawback was I was flying so much I felt travelling by car was extremely dangerous and I was constantly asking people to slow down, even if they were only doing 50kph! I literally got out of cars twice because I felt it was too dangerous.
Spending three months in Europe prior to crewing for the NZ team at the World Gliding Championships held in Reiti, close to Rome, in 1985, was a wonderful experience. I visited several glider factories – Schleicher, Schempp Hirth and Grob and loved being at the Wasserkuppe, where gliding began. I got to the Paris Airshow and was hosted to one of the best Paris Night Shows and some fine restaurants during the five days there. I was lucky to fly from Paris to Munich in a motor glider at about 2,000 ft, deviating to see magnificent castles and other ‘must sees’ and it was great fun to travel with other members of the NZ gliding team through Germany, Italy, Monaco and other tourist areas. I got to fly over the famous ‘Dam Busters’ dam in Germany – very memorable times.
After ten years of serious flying competitions, I had won every trophy and would have been repeating what I had already achieved if I continued. I decided to give up competition flying and concentrate on gliding
I set my first gliding record in 1979, doing a straight distance of 313.47k and in 1981 set three records
- NZ Single Seat (Feminine) Absolute Height record 29,650 ft
- NZ Single Seat (Feminine) Out and Return distance 319.3k. (25.01.1981)
- NZ Single Seat (Feminine) Out and Return speed over 300k 63.54kph (25.01.1981)
1982 there were two more and eventually I achieved eight or nine records and qualified as a gliding instructor.
In 1988 I was lucky enough to achieve a world record flying from Omarama to Mt Cook where I reached an absolute height in excess of 37,000 ft and established a new world record for the Gain of Height of 33,506 ft. I tried for about an hour to go higher but it was not to be.
My best ever flight was with Terry Delore, when we flew from Omarama over to Haast and along the West Coast, past the Franz and Fox glaciers and north to Lake Brunner and back to Omarama. It would be extremely rare to be able to do this, due to the different air mass on the West Coast. My personal best distance flight to date has been an 883 km cross country.
It was a great experience being the only woman tow pilot for the World Gliding Championships held at Omarama in 1995 and to tow at the two Grand Prix events held here at Omarama, at which the best gliding pilots in the world competed.
I have been a member of the New Zealand Association of Women in Aviation for 27 years now and have served on its Committee and as its President from 1986 – 89.
My longest membership has been of the Canterbury Aero Club, where I was on the Committee for a number of years and served as the Club Captain. It was my earliest introduction to many hours of voluntary work!
I still have a few trophies in my cabinet but the ones that mean the most these days are those awarded for services to aviation. I believe if you get enjoyment from something, you need to put something back and I have done this through being a tow pilot, glider instructor and over the last 30 plus years, serving on many committees and organizing many aviation events and Conferences. The most memorable being the first international aviation event held in NZ – the combined Australia / New Zealand Women Pilots Conference, held here in Christchurch and the first Asia/Pacific Women in Aviation Conference in Queenstown.
It is so rewarding to see others getting the same thrill of winning that I experienced. I now find my best rewards come from taking others on awe inspiring and very memorable soaring flights around Mt Cook and our glorious South Island scenery. I get wonderful hugs and kisses and have been lucky to make some very special lifelong friends.
I love being involved with Youth Glide Canterbury and the Youth Soaring Development camp and seeing the young ones finding the joy of participating in aviation.
In recent years, I have enjoyed fund raising - now totaling over $300,000 - for gliding clubs, as well for the Youth Soaring Development camp.
My satisfaction from towing comes from putting glider pilots in the best possible lift in the launch vicinity but it is very rewarding to put a pilot in their first thermal or lift source. The most rewarding tow was putting Rob Sherlock in a thermal that he took to 7,000 ft, before successfully achieving his 50 km cross country flight.
I was very proud of being awarded the Gliding New Zealand Friendship Cup for services to gliding and this year the GNZ Angus Rose Bowl for outstanding services to gliding.
It was certainly something special being a woman pilot when not many women were flying and those times will never be repeated. It is good to see women out there in the flying world – I only wish I hadn’t been age ineligible by the time women were accepted into the airlines and Air Force as pilots but I am very happy with all my flying experiences and memories and I am very glad that aviation found me.
SoaringNZ is the official journal of Gliding New Zealand (GNZ). It is published quarterly and distributed to all GNZ members. You can find out more about SoaringNZ Magazine at their website.