Soaring Pioneer George Applebay Dies At 89

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George Applebay will be remembered for more than being a pioneer in glider design and a fixture in the soaring community. Applebay, who died in April at 89, also was a World War II flight engineer and a test pilot for various aviation companies. His career spanned decades as he worked until late 2014 at his business, Applebay Aircraft at Moriarty Airport in New Mexico. Moriarty is home of the museum he founded, the U.S. Southwest Soaring Museum. The museum remembered him in its last quarterly newsletter (PDF), noting that among the numerous awards he was given over the years, the New Mexico State Legislature in February named one of his designs, the Zuni, the State Glider. Applebay first designed the Zuni in 1975 and it evolved into the Zuni II in 1980. In 1983, he donated a Zuni II to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.

In a 2009 EAA “Timeless Voices” video, Applebay shared stories of his lifelong fascination with flight, starting with meeting a barnstormer at age 7. In World War II he served as an Army Air Force mechanic and flight engineer and worked on B-17s and B-29s. He earned pilot certificates under the GI bill and went on to work for Boeing and then Cessna’s experimental department in Wichita, spin testing the T37. He instructed in gliders starting in the 1950s and, while continuing his work in aircraft innovation, began designing and building his own gliders. He eventually settled in New Mexico to pursue sailplane design and flight.