SI Vault
December 26, 1960
On wings of time
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December 26, 1960

Harold Melsome Probyn

On wings of time

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Air Commodore Harold Melsome Probyn (C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O.) first learned to fly a plane in 1915 (he holds that flying hasn't been as much fun since the invention of the parachute). Now retired and living in Kenya, Probyn was nettled recently when the licensing authorities decided that at 69 he had become too old to fly. Muttering "balderdash" and "poppycock," he took the engine from his wife's Volkswagen, mounted it on a homemade glider (see above) and soon was put-putting through African skies. Predictably, the authorities capitulated. "Seeing that it lands slower than 45 mph and weighs less than 1,000 pounds," he says crisply.

Air Commodore Probyn's powered gliding is the most recent chapter in a personal history that pretty well spans that of aviation itself. His airborne military service alone covers two world wars. In peacetime Probyn has flown with his wife over most of the globe—including a 1935 trip around Africa in a $1,200 Miles Hawk. Though he is no man to bow to age, this timeless aviator admits that advancing years did force his retirement from the RAF at the end of World War II. "I had to get out," says the irrepressible air commodore. "I was holding up everybody's promotion."

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