Heritage Conservancy announced the addition of the Philadelphia Glider Council airport to its Register of Historic Places. Located in Hilltown, the property is important for its use as the oldest continuously operated airport in Bucks County. The Philadelphia Glider Council (PGC) was founded in 1941, and has been at its present location since 1944.
“Whatever cares or concerns or worries we have on the ground–from the moment a glider starts to take off, all the way through the tow and release and then thermalling and soaring around through to landing–all those cares and concerns and worries dissipate and one is left with a sense of pure joy and beauty and lightness,” said Beth Taylor, current secretary of PGC, about the feeling that flight provides.
During a tumultuous time in American history, the early founding members of the PGC looked to the skies to take solace from the uncertainty of World War II. Lew Hull (who was also previously a Heritage Conservancy board member), Al Krauss, Joe Agostini, Art Millay, and Dave Bradley brought a passion to fruition and began work on building their glider fleet. In the early days, their planes were all single-seaters, which meant that first flights were all solo.
In 1945, after the war had been won, PGC members hosted their first Thanksgiving Gathering of Gliding and Soaring Pilots. A contest of strengths focused around duration, distance and return, altitude, spot landing, and bomb dropping. Since then, the PGC has continued with the contests.
The PGC has always had a sense of family and camaraderie. Up through the 1990s, founding member Lew routinely set the club’s annual flight endurance record. Founding member Joe’s son, JL Agostini, is still a member today. The PGC remains a place for pilots and enthusiasts to get together and swap stories about how it feels to have wings.
“My daughter said that she liked places with a clubhouse because having one implies a community, a permanence, a sense of belonging. I agree,” said Taylor.
Not only is there a rich aeronautical history and community-centered component to PGC’s port, but it also has strong ties to regional and national history. According to folklore, the Penn family met with Chief Tamamend to sign the Walking Purchase Treaty on this very property. An archeological dig of the property also found evidence of a Native American settlement.
PGC’s headquarters reside on over 125 acres of green open space. While the property has three hangars, a clubhouse, and a groundskeeper’s cottage, its significance lies in the history of the airport. The Herr Hangar is the oldest structure on the property, dating back to the 1930s. It is post and beam construction, and it houses two tow planes and several gliders. PGC is home to 15 gliders in all.