Saturday, September 15, 2007

Howard Banks

Howard Banks in his new ASW-27, Moriarty, New Mexico

Aviation History

Howard Banks was born into an aviation family. His father flew in WWI and was in the manufacturing business all his life as a designer. Howard became an apprentice at the same firm (de Havilland, maker of all sorts of famous stuff such as the ill-fated Comet). He worked in a lab investigating failed aircraft parts and systems.

How did you get started in aviation?

Grammar school in those not long after WWII days had a cadet force (was typically militaristic at that time), ours was associated with the Royal Air Force (RAF) of Britain. I won a prize at school, only one ever and no idea why, and was told to turn up at RAF Halton on a Sunday morning. Did and found I was to learn just enough to solo a glider – T-31 (I think) open cockpit two-seater, fabric, wood and string; one is in George Applebay’s Soaring museum in Moriarty, New Mexico. They were all winch launching. Before my 16 th birthday I made three solo flights and thereby have a British A and B badge. (The RAF, like most air forces, uses gliding as a quick and fairly cheap way to discover suitable people to recruit as air crew. I never went into the RAF, so it was money down a small hole.)

What types of aircraft have you flown?

Mostly gliders of various sorts. I was also a partner in a J-4 Piper Cub (side by side coupe), that was nice but was mashed by one of the partners and I was bought out eventually. Nothing too exciting.

Why did you decide to start flying gliders again?

I didn't decide to start, but it was my “wifie” who got me restarted. I stopped flying, because I was involved in sports car racing and could not afford both. The family, and lots of work, blocked any thought of gliding. But when Joan and I were first married in CA she bought me a ride at Calistoga. Some time after that I was interviewing the governor of Nevada and we had a ride at Minden (not very successful). Soon after I found a glider port just down the road from our house in the east bay and I haven't looked back since.

What kind of glider do you own?

After having an ASW-20 for many years I now have an ASW-27.

Why did you purchase the ASW-27?

I bought it because a friend was going to sell it and we did a quick deal, no negotiating, no nothing just 'sure I will buy it' and he gave me a break on the price. Unplanned, serendipity.

What is your most memorable flight?

Most memorable – anything which has scared the living bejeesus out of me. Perhaps my first land-out. July 4 th back east, haze that made it “sort of” VFR (visual flight rules) and I got lost (all visual in them thar days, no such as GPS). Flying a rented 1-26, landed the wrong side of a stream without doing any damage – but the retrieve was from hell partly because this commercial 1-26 was always tied out in the open and hadn't been apart in decades and it took massive amounts of hammering etc to get it on a trailer that was a disaster. We were all late for a major Chesapeake Bay crab cookout and I was in deep for months.

You can see several vintage gliders, including the T-31 (the same type Howard flew) at the Southwest Soaring Musuem located in Moriarty, New Mexico. More information can be found at:


Jonathan Price said...

I really enjoyed this interview.



Neena said...

You write very well.