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Martin Simons, 2002 in Königswinter

Martin Simons died on the 19 January after a short illness at Craigcare Moonee Ponds. He was 93 years old and had suffered from dementia for a number of years.
He was born in the Derbyshire village of Grindleford to Eric, publicity manager for a steel manufacturer and Lily (nee Laybourn) who had been a teacher. He spent his childhood in Sheffield and, after wartime evacuation, in Eyam in Derbyshire where he developed his passions for geology, education and gliding.
Martin was a lonely boy, never fitting into the village famous for its isolation during the Great Plague of 1665. He attended the village school and later Lady Manners School in Bakewell but did not do well academically and left school at 16 to take up a job as a laboratory assistant in the Edgar Allen steelworks where the composition of specialist steels was tested using chemicals. He enrolled in a metallurgy course at Sheffield Technical College.
In his leisure time, he found his way to the Camp Hill site of the Derby and Lancs Gliding Club where he had his first flights in an open primary glider, launched from the top of the hill by manpowered catapult with very basic controls and instructions shouted from the ground. An accident in which he injured his spine brought this to an early conclusion.
Martin joined the RAF for his National Service and worked as a wireless operator at bases in Scotland and Germany, playing a small part in the Berlin Airlift. At Scharfaldendorf, Germany his interest in gliding was reignited but he was redeployed before he could explore this very far..
After National Service, he decided to become a school teacher and attended Borough Road College in West London. It was at this time he took courses in carpentry and cabinet making, making small pieces of furniture which are in use to this day. He did his teaching practice at the Eyam village school and qualified as a woodwork teacher. His first job was at Porlock Road School Edmonton, north London. He attended Birkbeck College as a part-time student and achieved a BSc in Geology.
He met Jean Pope who was his older sister, Audrey’s best friend from university and an English teacher, when she was on a visit to Eyam. They started a courtship which resulted in their marriage in 1954. They had two daughters, Patricia and Margaret. When not studying, he built model aircraft in the front room of their home and flew them in the local park.
A degree enabled Martin to move into teacher education and in 1959 he got a job at Kenton Lodge women teacher’s college in Newcastle on Tyne where he taught geography. While there he studied part time at Durham University for a Masters in Education. He took up archery and learnt to drive.
Moving back to London and a lecturer’s job at the Institute of Education, Martin finally had the time and money to resume full-size gliding. He joined the London Gilding Club and quickly learnt to fly on the Slingsby Capstan. He got his A and B badges in August 1964 and progressed to Gold with two diamonds by November 1968. He flew club gliders while restoring from matchwood a Skylark 2. The finished Skylark, modified with an improved cockpit and canopy, became the Skylark 2a Phoenix which had a long flying career. Martin also joined a syndicate which owned a Ka6 in which he gained his sliver and gold Cs and took part in regional competitions. He also edited the London Gliding Club Gazette
In May 1968 the family emigrated to Australia where Martin worked as a lecturer in the theory of education at the University of Adelaide. The family story is that he chose Adelaide over other cities because of the excellent gliding weather. He lost no time in joining the Adelaide Soaring Club and Waikerie Gliding Club. That summer he took part in the Australia National Championship at Renmark, SA, flying a club Austria. Later he owned a Kestrel (XX), then a standard Libelle (BV) and an LS3. He was an active competition pilot in the 1970s and 80s and involved in the organisation of the 1973 World Gliding Competition at Waikerie.
In 1971 Martin became editor of Australian Gliding (now Gliding Australia), a post he held for ten years, embracing new printing technology and encouraging a high quality of writing. His role brought him prominence in the gliding community across the country.
Martin became a founder member of the Vintage Glider Club and worked to rescue old and unique gliders and plans from damage and destruction. He began writing articles about these old timers, learning German to translate from old journals and plans and developing skills in computer aided drawing to produce beautiful drawings for use by modellers and restorers. He collected a huge photo archive and could often be seen around hangers and airfields taking detailed pictures of rigging, control surfaces and cockpits. He contributed articles to international gliding and modelling publications and developed a wide correspondence with enthusiasts all over the world. The articles and drawings eventually came together in several series of books, one on Slingsby sailplanes, another on Schweizer sailplanes and others cataloguing all the vintage gliders ever made. These handsome volumes, illustrated with Martin’s meticulous technical drawings, were published by Klaus Fey.
Martin retired from the university in his early 60s and decided to devote more time to modelling. He equipped his large garden shed as a workshop. He designed at Martini model glider which was made into a kit and build many scale models, often re-engineering them from the most basic plans. He was a member of the Southern and Northern Soaring Leagues and other model clubs. He published the book Model Aerodynamics which was aimed at the enthusiast but was also used by those designing the first drones and other low airspeed craft. Martin travelled widely, vising America, Europe and China often seeking out correspondents and modellers and gliding clubs. He was invited to speak at many club events and attended aerodynamics and other technical conferences. He gave up solo gliding in his 70s.
As well as many articles and books about gliding and model aerodynamics, Martin wrote a biography of the German pilot Peter Riedel. In retirement, he also wrote and self-published three novels.
In 2012 he moved to a retirement village in Melbourne to be closer to his daughter. To the surprise of the retirement village administration, he converted his garage and part of his unit into a workshop and continuing to experiment with metal gliders, electric powered lighter than air planes as well as scale models. He was a member of the Australia Gliding Museum and donated his photos and extensive archive to them. He was also an active member of the Victorian Association of Radio Model Soaring (VARMS) .
Martin had heart surgery in 2005 and later had a serious accident while on holiday in Europe in 2016 which, combined with his old back injury increasingly impeded his mobility. He moved into an aged care home in 2017 and slowly declined into dementia.
Martin’s contributions to aviation were recognised with a Pirat Gehriger Diploma awarded by the Federation Aeronatique Internationale in 2006; induction into the Model Aeronautical of Australia Hall of Fame in 1993 and an honorary life membership of the Vintage Glider Club in 2021. The citation for the Pirat Gehriger Diploma said that Martin had “contributed immensely to international gliding as a leading world authority on gliders, and vintage gliders in particular.”
The end was peaceful after a brief illness. He is survived by his daughters, Pat and Margaret, and four grandchildren.