FAI award to Kiwi airwoman
The Federation Aeronautique Internationale, based in Switzerland, is responsible for the regulation of flight and verifying record-breaking flights, awarding 30 medals and diplomas each year. Last October’s presentation dinner was at the 107th FAI Conference in Kuala Lumpur.
Two New Zealanders were honoured with FAI awards. Robert (Bob) Henderson from Auckland was awarded the Lilienthal Medal for his services to the FAI, New Zealand gliding and aviation, and Yvonne Loader from Christchurch was presented with the Paul Tissandier Diploma, awarded to those who have served the cause of aviation in general and sport in particular for their work, initiative and devotion.
The awards ceremony itself was well done with nominations read out while photos of each award winner were displayed on two screens as they were invited to the stage to receive their awards from FAI president, Dr John Grubbstrom.
A cocktail party afterwards presented an opportunity to mingle with aviation enthusiasts from many different countries and congratulate the winners. The awards dinner (paid for by the mayor of Kuala Lumpur) featured an exquisitely decorated room and tables, two remotely controlled blimps and a balloon floating overhead, a showcase of delicious Malaysian food and live cultural entertainment. Aviation attendees from all around the world made it a memorable occasion.
Yvonne Loader is a vivacious and friendly woman who always makes an effort to look good — even out on the airfield she has lipstick on. She will be the first person to approach anyone who looks new and welcome them to the club, but there is more to her than meets the eye.
This unassuming woman flies gliders and powered aircraft, instructs on gliders and is also a tow pilot. She is secretary for two gliding clubs and is a hard worker for the raising of funds to go towards safety and better equipment for gliding clubs. Among many projects her funding successes have provided youth with subsidised flying and contributed to the building of a new hangar at Springfield.
Fundraising is a never-ending job involving hours on the computer, and Yvonne spends at least a couple of hours a day, sometimes all day, preparing, pursuing or arranging.
Yvonne’s interest in aviation began with skiing. She and her husband Bruce were both keen skiers (still are) and a fellow skier needed a lift to Nelson to look at an Auster. They offered to take him in a couple of days and he promised them a flight in return.
That flight never eventuated, but the conversation got them interested and Bruce started flying lessons, his father having flown in WWII. Through the aero club Yvonne and Bruce met 15-year-old Ross Sparks, forming a lifelong friendship. When Ross gained his instructor’s rating Yvonne did a few ferry flights with him and, after having a go at the controls, was hooked.
She started to fly in 1972, with Ross as her instructor. Pressured to enter a landing competition, she did well enough to come second. A further second and two firsts were the beginning of 10 years of serious competition flying.
Even as a student pilot her professionalism showed. Attending the annual NZ Airwomen’s Association (NZAWA, now NZ Association of Women in Aviation) rally she gained two seconds and a first, giving her also the trophy for top student, much to her surprise. The following year she came first in all her competitions and, capping that with the Top Aviatrix Trophy, came home with a planeload of trophies.
Frequently in that era as the only woman competitor, Yvonne won many more events and trophies at aero club and national level. During this time she served on the Canterbury Aero Club’s flying committee, helping organise social, flying and fly-away events, as well as serving on the aero club’s executive committee and being club captain. Yvonne also served on the executive for the NZ Airwomen’s Association and was president for three years.
Helping organise the Combined Australia/NZ Women in Aviation conference in Christchurch and the first Asia Pacific Women in Aviation Conference in Queenstown were highlights.
In 1975 Bruce and Yvonne were persuaded to join the Canterbury Gliding Club and Bruce became a tow pilot, Yvonne following suit not long after — bored on the ground watching him have all the fun. Part of towing required they do some glider time, and soaring soon became more of a passion than powered flying, resulting in the pair buying their own glider.
Yvonne had the opportunity to attend the 1985 World Gliding Championships at Reiti, Italy, as crew for the New Zealand team. Being in Europe for three months was a great experience, including visits to two glider factories and flying from Paris to Munich in a motor glider, interrupting the journey a few times to circle overhead spectacular castles.
Torn between two great loves, Yvonne finally chose to put more time into gliding, having won most of the trophies in powered flying. She set her first gliding record in 1979 with a straight-line distance of 313.74km. In 1981 she went on to set three New Zealand records: height (single-seat feminine, 29,650ft); out and return distance (single seat feminine 319.3km); and out and return speed (single seat feminine 63.54kph).
In 1988, on a soaring flight above Mt Cook, she flew at over 37,000ft, setting a world record (feminine) for gain of height (33,506ft) and two New Zealand national records for the gain of height and absolute height.
Yvonne became a gliding instructor in 1982 and has had great joy in teaching young and old the joys of gliding, sharing their enthusiasm for flying. The Canterbury Gliding Club has a strong focus on youth flight training with ATC and Scouts holding regular gliding camps and Youth Glide Canterbury activities. Yvonne loves being involved with these young people and the 10-day Youth Soaring Development camp held every year at Omarama.
Yvonne was awarded the Gliding NZ Friendship Cup for her outstanding contribution to the gliding movement during the preceding year, and last year she received the Gliding NZ Angus Rose Bowl as recognition of outstanding services to the sport of gliding in this country.
She has been instructing and towing for 30 years, as well as all the other activities. This amazing woman is still flying and her voluntary contribution to aviation, and gliding in particular, is ongoing.
- Report by Cathleen Heslan
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