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Jack Lambie - A Unique Person is Gone

Word has come to SSA offices of the death of Jack Lambie. Although we do not have details to share at this time, we did want to pass on the following remembrances of Jack knowing that he had many friends and acquaintances in the soaring community. This information and the following have been submitted from the Sailplane Homebuilders Association and we thank them for sharing with us.

In Memoriam
Jack Lambie

I first came across Jack Lambie because of his instrumental part in the First Otto Lilienthal Hang Glider Meet. I was a kid, and very impressionable at the time. Yet here was a very respected Vice Principal of an elementary school flying a very inexpensive craft. Little did I know how many times in the years since 1971 I would cross paths with Jack Lambie and eventually come to consider him a friend. Jack Lambie is one of the people that inspired me to be an aeronautical engineer.

Jack's early contributions to hang gliding were a sidetrack to his other love of soaring flight in sailplanes. His stories of adventure are still near mythical. Jack remains the only person I have ever actually met to soar with both the California Condor (a magnificent animal which we should all aspire to emulate) and the Andean Condor. One of the last stories Jack related to me before he died was of his time trying to soar with the Andean Condors while delivering a Sportavia RF-5B Sperber motorglider. He was also the only person I ever met who owned and flew a Fauvel AV-36 flying wing sailplane.

Of course Jack was a part of Kremer Prize winning Gossamer aircraft effort in the late 1970s. Jack was always quick to relate those days of grinding work and effort for a prize which most of the public could not relate to. Jack's stories of those days still raise guffaws and looks of astonishment.

Jack had a flair for the epic story, much in the tradition of Homer's Ilaid and Odyssey. It didn't matter if it was a cross-country cycling trip which he actually did, or spinning a yarn of ultra-light foot-launched sailplanes made of boron composites which he hoped someone else would do, Jack could capture the imagination. I know he captured mine, and many others of my generation.

Jack had a very technical bent as well. He could think through manufacturing processes of composites, or write an ultralight aircraft pilot's manual. I watched Jack try to support a theory for the origin of lift while arguing with Dr Paul MacCready, and it didn't seem to slow him down at all. And through it all, his story telling flair would be there.

It has been said that the measure of a man is seen in who his friends are. Jack Lambie's friends were people like Dr Paul MacCready, Bruce Carmichael, and Taras Kiceniuk.

In recent years Jack seemed to be inspired by the idea of ultralight sailplanes, much as members of the Sailplane Homebuilders Association have been. His supportive words for this goal will remain forever with me, just as his stories of Condors, motorgliders, hang gliders, flying wing sailplanes, or his bicycle adventures will. And the images in my mind of Jack's arms spread wide trying to convey flight to Earthbound mortals. I will miss the stories of adventure, soaring, and flight, and of the iconoclast nature behind them. Stories that fired me in my youth to follow the wind...

I will miss you Jack...

Al Bowers
June 23, 1999


Jack Lambie – Renaissance Man
By Bruce Carmichael

It is difficult to believe that Jack Lambie, the survivor of so many life threatening situations, has passed away. Jack, ever ready to assume great risks in search of new knowledge and experience, had time and again extracted himself through bright, quick action from a bind that would have killed most people.

Even before I met Jack in 1954, while he was still a college student he had survived a storm front soaring flight in a Schweizer 1-19 over the city of Chicago. When I arrived in California, Jack resided at the Elsinore airport and it was there that this dauntless young man built my 1-26 from a factory kit in exchange for flight time. While teaching himself, he trained innumerable school students in aircraft construction. He made many fine flights in the 1-26. Friends will recall his famous landing in the nudist camp story.

While motorcycle riding, he had encountered the Elsinore Shear Line and explored it further with the 1-26. Although not trained in meteorology, he wrote a pioneering paper about the shear line. That was so typical of Jack, a modern Renaissance Man, self taught, an original thinker in any area to which he put his mind.

Following his 1-26 flying, he continued his soaring experience with a Fauvel tailless sailplane, a Brigleb BG-12, a Fornier motor glider and a giant high performance Jantar. He has written and lectured on these experiences. Two Lambie sailplane improvements are the 1-26 rear windows and the vast improvement of the BG-12 handling characteristics through vertical fin extension.

Jack did innovative land vehicle drag reduction work by comparing the power off performance of his van down from the Cajon pass in the original and the faired streamlined configuration. This lead to his cooperation with Dr. Paul MacCready on truck drag reduction. He was also a key member in Dr. MacCready’s capture of the Kramer man powered aircraft prize. Jack’s ability to rapidly construct simple first look hardware for new problem investigation was very helpful.

At the beginning of the hang glider movement he designed, built, flew and sold plans for a Chanute type glider called Hang Loose and remained a driving force in early hang gliding. With Prof. Kyle of Long Beach he formed the Human Powered Vehicle Association which raised the bicycle speed record above 60 mph through streamlining. This organization expanded to include sea and air vehicles.

In more recent years, Jack developed his skill as a sculptor, artistically immortalizing in marble his appreciation of the female form. In addition to many magazine articles, he wrote several books including, Building and Flying Sailplanes and Gliders, Ultralight Airmanship, and Composite Construction for Homebuilt Aircraft.

Jack devoted portions of his career to working with youth, public school teaching and direction of the Los Angeles Science Museum. He was also an unconventional self-directed person who occasionally stepped on the toes of conservative people in his explorations and self learning. The World may not be able to absorb many Jack Lambies but thank God we had him to add interest to our lives.

Posted: 7/1/1999


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