history of the Murray Bridge Gliding Club Inc.

A short history
drawing on the records held in the Ferries McDonald Technical Library at Monarto, South Australia –
The core source is the MBGC November 1983 club newsletter celebrating the 25th anniversary of the current club.

(The Murray Bridge Gliding Club is a separate organisation to the Monarto Sailplaner Museum, and the club operates about 15km away on the Pallamana Airfield).

The Murray Bridge Gliding Club today operates its motorgliders based at the Pallamana airfield on the northern side of the Rural City of Murray Bridge.

back then
A first gliding club was initiated by R.H. Harvey in Murray Bridge, it formed in 1931 and a Zoegling primary glider was built over a 12 month period. Harold Bottrill came from Saddleworth to test fly it in March 1932, so that after modification it was in use by club members. Launch was by auto-tow, the first flying site was the Kutzer property on the western side of Murray Bridge. The next year the club moved east of Murray Bridge to land made available by Hon. J.Cowan MLC. Club operations ceased in 1936, the Zoegling went to Waikerie in 1939.

In 1956 Bob Mills and Ralph Farquar had introductory flights at Waikerie through Ray Killmier. A formation meeting was held at the Great Eastern hotel in Littlehampton in November 1958, the club taking the name Great Eastern Gliding Club. An ES52 MkIII Kookaburra VH-GLJ was bought new from the manufacturer E.Schneider Ltd at Parafield. It was loaned to the GFA National Gliding School and Adelaide Soaring Club, and the Great Eastern pilots also first flew it at Gawler until March 1959.
The club Opening Day was held on 10th May 1959, on C.B Thiele land at Pallamana.
In 1961 the club moved to land on the northern side of Callington, but returned to Pallamana between crop rotations, then moving to the highway junction on the eastern side of Tailem bend in 1965.
In 1970 the club moved again to Pallamana when the formal airfield there first began, which has in the decades since evolved from farm paddock to gliding club home to broad based aviation centre.

The original club ‘Nissan’ style hangar and Kookaburra sailplane accompanied the club on its various moves. Launching at the time was by winch. By the time the Tailem Bend operation flourished the fleet had grown to an Olympia and a Ka6.
In becoming entrenched at Pallamana, the club began its evolution. In the mid 1970s the club changed its name to Murray Bridge Gliding Club. With the availability of an Auster for aerotowing by R. Hein, the club progressively evolved to a Pawnee tow plane (VH-IGR) of its own in 1979, and years later onward to self launch motorgliders. The current ‘windsock lounge’ building at Pallamana was originally the clubroom built by the club. The original hangar facing the main runway was removed and new hangars built in the taxiway area (hangar 19).

In the 1980s the club was active in visiting other gliding clubs, attending competition sites and camps, including flying wave and ridge in the Tothill Ranges.
At Pallamana the club held annual get togethers for sailplanes and pilots across South Australia. While the airfield was principally gliding operations, contests were staged here.  

The club purchased a succession of 2 seat and single seat sailplanes, and attracted a succession of associated privately owned sailplanes. A Bocian was in use with the club for a few years, replaced with a Blanik (VH-GVL). Single seat sailplanes included H201 Libelle (VH-GCO), a Pilatus B4 (VH-GCC) was later replaced with a Grob Single Astir (VH-IKJ). Private gliders over the decades have included Kingfisher (VH-GRH), Sagitta (VH-GQS), Diamant (VH-GEC), Twin Astir (VH-IKO), Libelle (VH-GYN), Single Astir (VH-GDO).

By the 1990s Pallamana was evolving as an aviation centre, attracting general aviation and ultralight flying schools and an ever expanding cadre of privately owned power aircraft of all types. Flying sailplanes from the airfield from winch launch became very rare, and aerotow operations from the grass verge of the runway less appealing.
The Murray Bridge Gliding Club and some of its private owners evolved their aircraft to motorglider types. These included Dimona, RF4, and Grob G109. The club today operates VH-FFQ bought in July 1994. A privately owned G109 (VH-VKR) joined, as did for a while several motorgliders owned by the Bache family.

The club activities expanded to include regular excursions to other sites of interest. Wave and ridge soaring in the Flinders Ranges were annual events, excursion to Burketown (north Queensland) to fly the ‘Morning Glory’ weather phenomenon has been undertaken a number of times. The club has added G109s (VH-GUD, VH-FFN) to its fleet.

Airframes which point toward the future

The mention of ‘museum’ often brings to mind a place filled with the static reminders of the past. The Monarto Sailplane ‘Museum’ instead looks to displaying the artifacts from gliding’s earlier times which also give sign posts of what may yet come. Aircraft options beyond the current emphasis on white cruciform slender aircraft which provide high performance soaring predominantly in a racing context.

As the reader trawls through the ‘museum’s projects further down the list, we would like you to see them in the light of aircraft options not yet achieved. Recreational aircraft forms which may yet come to be. Because we hold part and echoes of past aircraft which have these evolution potentials inherent in them.

The graphic displays the side view arrangement for 5 such future possibilities, where items we have in the ‘museum’ show the way. In order these are:

  • The E.Schneider Ltd. factory built a single ES-65 ‘Platypus’ 2 seat sailplane with a side-by-side seating configuration. The prototype flies at Bacchus Marsh. We hold the ‘plug’ that was made prior to the prototype being built. We saw it in its original full fuselage configuration but were only able to retrieve the cockpit when the factory shut down. The graphic shows that layout with the evolution potentials the designer had in mind – future fitment of retractable undercarriage, in-body engine with extendable pylon and propellor for self launch, and evolutions to larger wing span with camber change flaps rather than the simple wing of the prototype. A collaboration with a German manufacturer was in draft but never confirmed, the production run thereby was still-born.
  • Also seen at the E.Schneider factory at that time was a plug for the ES-67 single seater. This anticipated a prone pilot lying across the single piece 13metre wing where the retractable undercarriage was located. With the potential to have a FES – front electric drive propellor system which would be several decades later before this became a reality. We were unable to secure that plug, but think the concept plane was so attractive so as to be remembered even if only in this graphic form.
  • The E.Schneider Ltd agency for Grob ‘Twin Astir’ tandem 2 seat sailplanes led to local production of ‘strap-on- option for a ‘sustainer’ engine and propellor unit on each wing to enable extended level flight engines-on. We have those straps and propellors.
  • We have added a side view of the DM-12M which is described further below, as a further private project in regional South Australia where a different approach includes canard forward control, trailing edge pusher propellors layout. We hold the male plugs, the female moulds and a first cast of fuselage components.
  • And lastly, to complete a display of future potentials we show the side view of the Ted Pascoe EP-3 ‘Canard Goose’. We hold the timber primary structure and the drawings for this canard with pusher engine/propellor in the rear fuselage. As is described further below.

These 5 exemplars show both that there are more options in airframe layouts and recreational flight modes beyond just racing. Where the airframes from the past suggest and trial future options. Which makes the ‘museum’ more than just a store for has-beens.

more on Project 32

We thank the availability of the designer of flying wings Jim Marske, who has responded to our email enquiries as we continue to delve into the Pioneer 11 VH-UIX originally built by the late John Lynch.

He has provided such supporting information as he was able, considering he is busy with further evolutions of the design series through to the Genesis type.

On 27th October we rigged for the first time, with glider pilots from 3 clubs present. Left to right: John Kennett, Erik Sherwin, Noel Matthews, Susanne Jones and in cockpit Tim Svenson. Behind the camera Ian Johnson.

The rigged airframe enables the next steps to proceed in terms of control deflections, instrument functionality and cockpit fit out.

The tasks help us understand the thinking behind flying wing/nurflugel aircraft. Where centre of gravity is identifiable by the way the fuselage sits on the ground, on its main wheel and teeter between front and tail skids. The aerodynamic work where fences moderate the airflow between wing trailing edge and control surface.

As noted before, UIX is the only functional flying wing sailplane in Australia. Other exemplars of earlier design types are static in museums, or regrettably have been lost/destroyed in previous decades.



David Easterbrook, Baylee Roberts, Erik Sherwin, Noel Matthews and Ted & Kathy Bowden are regular contributors to the on-going evolution of the museum. Including the housing of artefacts, and the work on airframes. Visible here is hangar J which now houses a number of trailers (for Ka6e, ULF, ES52 and Blanik) and airframes (Super Arrow, Kookaburra, Kingfisher and most recently the parts [at left] for the Marske Pioneer VH-UIX – the latest project underway).

Harry Schneider

This museum holds a number of the 120 sailplanes constructed by E.Schneider Ltd in their 4 decades of operation in South Australia. Harry Schneider was the last member of the original family. He passed on recently, and a wake was held at Rowland Flat on the anniversary of his birthday  – 28th October. About 100 of his friends attended, with his ashes scattered over Kaiser Stuhl the hill in the Barossa Valley. Thanks to his extended family, the MC for the day Noel Roediger, and the many other contributors making the day both memorable and a fitting tribute.

display cabinet

Three decades ago Beverley Matthews constructed scale models of a primary glider as built by early South Australian pioneer glider pilots and to the same scale the ‘Popular Mechanics’ style body shift glider. The former reflects the work by Harold Bottrill at Saddleworth (the rudder of that primary is in our museum); the latter the Air Scouts of Australia (Loxton) (that airframe is in our museum). Noel Matthews has now completed and installed the display cabinet so that the relative technologies about a decade apart (1930s primary vs 1924 body shift) can be viewed. We think it pertinent that glider pilots of today, with its sophisticated technologies, can reach back and see where gliding has evolved from. In the same way that we anticipate our current methods will seem antiquated a century hence.


2019 projects

The refurbishment work on airframes is on-going, drawing on a widening network of enthusiasts. The pleasure of the work is the seamless mix of individual and group tasks, their planning, with chat and coffees consumed throughout.

The Kookaburra airframe work discussed last year has continued – with a plywood mould fabricated, from which an acrylic canopy was ‘blown’ (thanks to Aviation Acrylic Mouldings) and fitted to the cockpit steel tube frame.

Effort has then moved on to the Kingfisher airframe, with structural timber work, cable run controls, cockpit fitout and instruments, and finish up to ‘underware’ stage of lacquered dacron external covering. This airframe is now rigged and hangared.

– seen at rigging above are Baylee Roberts, Erik Sherwin, with Emilis at the tail – photo by Noel Matthews (who was until then on the port tip). These participants extend onward from others including David Easterbrook, Ted & Kathy Bowden, Steve Burgess and crew who have contributed to ground resources and airframes.

Current work is on a Ka6e survey, with other projects waiting their turn.

The waiting list includes Pioneer, the second Kingfisher, a Mark IV Kookaburra, and several ULF-1.

site protection

Some years back, the Country Fire Service via its Air Wing ground surveyed the airstrip with a view to its possible use by Air Tractors during fire fighting operations. Where the location and the 1300 metre strip accessed from the main road could be an asset.

The site has always had some on-site capability, with tank and pump on some buildings, and a 400 litre trailer mounted fire unit. As this gear has aged, the issue of its replacement has been front of mind.

This year, a farm fire unit has been added to the property tray top vehicle, to become the current primary response to bushfire in the area.

monarto fire fighting

2018 projects

During 2017 the museum’s workshop resembled ‘mens’ shed’ activity with group working days. The emphasis was to both repair and refurbish the 2 seat ES52 Kookaburra VH-GHN. Works included plywood, dacron, instruments, control runs and painting. Toward the end of the year the completed airframe was assembled.

During 2018 a new perspex canopy made by Ian Linke has been installed.


To complete the work prior the airframe is to be weighed and certified.


For 2018 the same work team has swung into the counterpart single seat ES57 Kingfisher VH-GRH, with similar repair and refurbishment tasks planned. The early work is on individual parts, to be mated together on the boards shown above.




Integral to collecting the ‘fleet’ are on-going tasks in servicing, maintenance and repair of individual airframes. The airframes cross the spectrum from aluminium alloy construction, glass fibre resin mould constructed airframes, and the traditional ‘stick&string’ build in Sitka spruce.


Collected together in the shed in this photograph are from rear forward: the aluminium alloy L-13, an ES57 wing in timber construction, the moulds for the DM-12M; and the fuselage of the Es-52 being worked on by owners Ted, Noel, Beverley and Emilis.