March 15, 2015


“Wally” Kahn

 Wally Kahn's crowning achievement was the purchase of Lasham Airfield, thereby securing our future. Since gliding started at Lasham in 1951, Wally campaigned, chivvied and negotiated to buy the land from an intransigent Civil Service. At first the Society acquired a long lease after a battle with bureaucracy that needed a QC and questions in Parliament to resolve. During negotiations to extend the lease in 1982 the Ministry of Defence objected, saying that the work being done in its black hangar was so secret it could not even be discussed. The Society discovered that the hangar was virtually empty and was being guarded by a resting actor who had been sent from the local Unemployment Office. Wally created the Lasham Trust in 1983 to raise funds, and finally in 1999 the Society was able to buy the freehold of over 500 acres.  The effect of the purchase can be seen in the Society's new buildings, its winches, the smooth cross-runways and its fleet of gliders.

Wally first flew solo in a glider in 1946 after helping to set up an RAF gliding club at Oerlinghausen in Germany in the aftermath of World War Two. They rescued forty German gliders before they could be destroyed by American soldiers. He earned Silver C (number 85 on the UK register) in 1947 and Diamond Badge number 50 in 1975. He broke seven British records up to 1963 and competed in sixteen national championships up to 1973. He was awarded the BGA's Wakefield Trophy in 1953, having flown 222km from Lasham to Coningsby in a DFS Weihe. He also did 11,000 tows as a tug pilot.
Whatever you thought about Wally, you couldn't ignore him. He always had a project and he was difficult to refuse. He was a Council Member for the British Gliding Association from 1954-1990. He served on the Committee of the Royal Aero Club and was presented with its Silver Medal in 1995. In June 2011 he was awarded an MBE for services to gliding. The BGA presented him with its Gold Medal in 2014. He was a life member of Lasham Gliding Society. He published an autobiography  "A Glider Pilot Bold..."
He was commissioned as Pilot Officer 9th Dec 1950. After leaving the RAF he joined Joseph Samuel & Son Limited, a cigar importer, and eventually became its managing director. He married Margaret Moore, née Doran-Veevers, in 1954. She died in 1996, but he is survived by their daughter, Christine.
Wally passed away this morning at 0515 hrs in Basingstoke Hospital.
15th March 2015