Horse News

Vintage: Horse-Launched Sailplane

Source: LA Times Archives

“Feel good Sunday has rolled around and I have been saving this gem for several weeks.  We talk about our country being founded on the back of the horse but there are a multitude of other ways the horses have improved our lifestyle and served us.  This cannot be said for the pig, chicken, lamb or cow which are livestock but exclusively an only for our companions, the horses.  So we share this little piece of past history with you and remind the public that horse people do NOT eat their friends.  Keep the Faith.” ~ R.T.

Aug. 21, 1939: Horses are used to launch motorless sailplane at Grand Central Flying School in Glendale, CA


A man who builds 8000-horsepower, multi-engined airplanes yesterday stood on the sidelines at Grand Central Air Terminal (in Glendale) while a motorless machine generating “two horsepower” slid into the skies.

The horses were real.

And the man was Glenn L. Martin, maker of mighty seaplanes and fighting ships, who admits, after almost 30 years, to a yen to fly alone again.

Along the runway stretching in front of Joe Plosser’s Grand Central Flying School, horsemen of Los Charros, association of hard-riding film, radio and ranch folk, took their positions.

Four were for “atmosphere.”

Two held the long rope attached ‘o the peapod cockpit of Hawley Bowlus’s sleek San Fernando-made sailplane. At the signal, they spurred like mad. And while Martin, North American Aviation Co. officials and air minded Hollywood cinema men watched, the noiseless craft soared to the length of its halter.

When the glider returned, Martin asked to be permitted to sit at its simple controls.

“Not much like your bombers, is it Mr. Martin?” asked Bowlus.

The manufacturer smiled.

“Our ships–yours and mine–all have their place. Sailplaning is a grand sport that really teaches the theory of flight. With the clipped winged, heavily powered, heavily loaded military craft used today, knowledge of thermals and wind currents and the art of flying without engines comes in mighty handy in emergencies.”…

Today (1939) soaring enthusiasts maintain 800 clubs throughout the United States; they have climbed to 20,000 feet, winged silently almost 300 miles across country. Yesterday’s test proved that horses, galloping at 30 m.p.h. over ground where motorcar launching of sailplanes is unfeasible, can be put into useful operation.

he Grand Central Air Terminal, also known as Grand Central Airport, was closed in 1959.
The Glenn L. Martin Co. produced the twin-engine B-26 Marauder bomber during World War II.

6 replies »

  1. Wow. Whenever I hear the term ‘horsepower’ it leaves me with a sense of awe. I think of how integral horses have been to mankind, so much that a term for power was named for them. Think of how much we must have depended on and admired their strength, among their other wonderful qualities. We don’t value anything today, and we shouldn’t treat those who helped us build our nation with such disregard.


  2. Me too Idalupine. Just think of where would FORD MOTOR COMPANY BE without the MUSTANG !!!!!!! KEEP writing to them hoping they will reciprocate to the MUSTANGS for all they have done for them !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • I hear you and i work for Ford. They did a little for the mustangs but not enough and i don’t know why they won’t do more to end horse slaughter.


  3. The power, intelligence and beauty of our horses cannot be denied! They have and hopefully always will remain a huge part of our heritage. It’s imperative they be protected, for they trully are God’s gift to humanity! Thanks for sharing R.T..


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