Aero Club members hear from Royal Air Force glider pilot
Sun Lakes resident Walter Martin was guest speaker at the Sun Lakes Aero Club (SLAC) gathering January 21 at the Sun Lakes Country Club.
A native of United Kingdom, Martin described his military career that took him from enlistment in the Royal Air Force at age 17 to his harrowing experience landing a troop-carrying glider behind German lines in 1945.
Martin was 15 years of age when World War II started. “I always wanted to be a pilot,” he said. He got his wish in 1944 when he took his basic training at Falcon Field near Mesa, AZ., then a RAF station. There he logged 250 hours flying Stearman bi-planes and AT-6 Harvard trainers.
Returning to the United Kingdom, he flew Tiger Moth bi-planes before being transferred to the Army Glider Pilot Regiment. “The RAF needed more glider pilots because we lost so many AGP pilots at Arnhem,” he told his audience.
Following his glider training, he participated in Operation Varsity, which was to secure a bridgehead across the Rhine River in 1945. He recalled details of the operation: being towed to the release point at 4,000 feet altitude by C-47 aircraft for several hours before crossing the Rhine river, doing 360-degree circling patterns to lose altitude at 500 feet per minute, and being under fire after a harrowing landing, and of course, surviving the ordeal.
The operation was a huge success, and the war ended just a few weeks later, he said.
SLAC members gather the third Monday of each month from November through April in the Sun Lakes Country Club Mirror Room. The public is invited to attend all gatherings. Additional information is available on the club’s web site, SunLakesAeroClub.org, or by calling Bob Walch at 895-8869 or Gary Vacin at 298-7017.