TryGliding Just Go membership Classifieds

1. lindsay and bert

Bert receiving his GFA ‘Unsung Heroes Award’ from Lindsay Mitchell, CGC President at the time.

By Kevin Rodda - Caboolture Gliding Club, based on a story from Neil Wilson

It’s the end of an era. Bert Persson has sold both his beloved Atlas self-launching glider and his hangar in recent months and has now taken the decision to let his membership to the GFA lapse. He is a gliding legend in Australia, a world class glider pilot, a talented and very experienced aeronautical engineer, a setter of gliding records and a Life Member at both the Alice Springs and Caboolture Gliding Clubs. He is also a maestro of glider repairs and maintenance, in particular aluminium gliders such as the L13 Blanik and the IS-28B2.

He has been a great friend and mentor to many powered and gliding aircraft operators at Caboolture, and returns regularly to his homeland Sweden to fly in their Nationals and thus qualify to represent his homeland at many World Gliding Championships.

In 2016 Bert was awarded a prestigious Presidential Recognition Certificate (Unsung Heroes Award) from the Gliding Federation of Australia … “for 60 years of gliding involving repair and maintenance of gliders at two clubs”.

2. bert glider

Bert’s test Ultralight TST10-M Atlas motorglider VH-GIM.

Northern Lights
Bert grew up in Swedish Lapland, an area that is commonly known to many as the home of the midnight sun and the Northern Lights. Where he lived with his parents on the Arctic Circle, the sky was mostly always light through the summer months, with very little dark at night. However in winter, he left for school in the dark and came home in the dark. The family did not have a vehicle and he travelled to and from school on skis.

On leaving school, Bert began work in the tool room of a large manufacturing plant where he enjoyed learning many engineering skills and, once he had been working for a while, began taking gliding lessons in the summer of 1956. In the same year, Bert also became licensed to fly powered aircraft. One day at his place of employment, Bert witnessed an old man receiving a gold watch and the cost of a taxi home as a reward for fifty years of service. Bert realised that he wanted much more from life than that.

He then proceeded to sell everything that he owned to fund his airfare to Australia and, after a journey that took him from Sweden to England, the United States, Fiji and then Australia, he finally arrived in Sydney where he found work at an automobile factory.

8. tiger moth

Tiger Moth VH-UQH was back in the air at Caboolture in 2019 (photo: Ian McDonnell).

Warming Up
A short time later, he successfully applied for a position that involved maintaining the fleet of a large Alice Springs transport company. He spent three days at their Sydney depot, proving that he could do the job, before the company flew him up to Alice Springs. But when they opened the door of the plane on arrival, he didn’t know what had hit him. It was 40-something degrees outside, and when you have spent most of your life in Sweden, that comes as quite a shock.

Bert also discovered the local gliding club at Alice Springs and soon went there to do some flying. They sent him on a few check flights with an instructor, just high enough to do a circuit and land, to make sure that he could fly. On the third flight, they came across a thermal on the downwind leg and, in order to take advantage of the situation, he had to battle the instructor. They ended up climbing to 5,000ft and staying up for about an hour. It was during this flight that Bert realised the instructor had never been in a thermal.

Once he was accepted as a competent glider pilot, Bert pioneered cross-country gliding in the area and began to break records left, right and centre … for absolute altitude, height gain and overall distance flown. Some of these records are still current and others have been broken.

9. moth minor

Moth Minor VH-CZB was unanimously awarded Grand Champion at the Watts Bridge 2009 “Festival of Flight” (photo: “Moth Minor Miracle” 2020).

22,000km Flight
After some time with the transport company, Bert went to work for South Australian Air Taxis. While there, he gained his qualifications as an aircraft engineer. From Alice Springs, Bert moved to Tocumwal where he worked with Bill Riley and Ingo Renner at Sportavia, continuing to amaze the gliding world with his ability to set records. One of Bert’s many notable achievements was a trip he made in 1980 with Bill Riley and Bill Schoon. The three of them travelled to Romania to pick up three motor gliders and flew them back to Australia. This 22,000km flight from Brasov to Tocumwal took 154 flying hours and is recognised by many as a pioneering event in the world of gliding.
Bert relocated from Tocumwal to the Redcliffe Peninsula, south of Caboolture, in the 1980s and still enjoys the serenity of the Scarborough environment today.

When he first moved to the area, he had his Cessna 150 hangared at the Redcliffe Airfield but, after an invitation from the Caboolture Aero Club President Garry Poole, he moved it to Caboolture. For many years, Bert operated a Wittman Tailwind homebuilt light aircraft out of YCAB and operated his Atlas self-launching glider from there from 2005 until just recently.

6. IS 28M motorglider

The IS-28M motor glider.

Sharing Skills and Passion
Bert plied his exceptional aeronautical engineering skills as well as his vast knowledge and experience at Caboolture’s Sandora Aviation for many years on major rebuilding/restoration projects such as Mark Carr’s 1958 Commonwealth CA-25 Winjeel (VH-CZE) and 1939 De Havilland DH-94 Moth Minor (VH-CZB ex RAAF A21-42). He contributed to Ed Field’s 1931 De Havilland DH-60M Gypsy Moth (VH-UQH ex G-ABHY), and the 1961 Schleicher K7 glider (VH-GAB) now operated by the North Queensland Soaring Centre at Charters Towers.

Bert’s biggest legacy however would have to be the knowledge that he has passed on to many others at YCAB including Bernard ‘Speedy’ Gonsalves. A huge amount of what Speedy now knows is the result of being taught, guided and mentored by Bert. In particular, Bert provided an enormous amount of support to Speedy during the world-class restorations of his K6 and K14 vintage gliders.

3. romania medal 4. sweden diploma 5. gfa two seater

The Romania to Australia flight in motor gliders was a pioneering event. Centre: Bert’s records are also recognised by his home country of Sweden. Right: Acknowledging one of Bert’s achievements.

Bert’s records are also recognised by his home country of Sweden

The following closing comments were contributed by Barry Collins, CFI at Caboolture Gliding Club -
“Bert has made a lot of friends during his long and illustrious flying career. He has mentored, trained and instructed many, all of whom have profited immeasurably from his influence in both their professional and sport flying activities. His presence will be sorely missed by all at YCAB, on the ground and in the air. He is the consummate aviator, the quintessential pilot, and a legend in his own lifetime. Indeed, some say that he wasn’t born, he was hatched! The flying fraternity, the gliding group particularly, all wish Bert the very best for the future.”