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 Hi-Flier Clippers

Article by
Dave Pecota

Hi-Flier Clippers

Few aircraft captured the “romance” of the early years aviation better than the Pan American Airlines flying boats of the 1930’s and 40’s.  So I was naturally delighted to purchase this large and graceful Clipper glider from the Hi-Flier Manufacturing Company of Decatur, IL … the company renown for making great kites.

The glider was produced prior to WW2 and its graphics closely resemble those of the 3 Martin M-130 Clippers built for Pan American in the mid 1930’s.  The wingspan is quite impressive for an RTF glider, at nearly 2 feet.

Hi-Flier was founded in 1922/23 by Harry A Sellers, who held several kite design patents.  (I don’t think there are many of us who haven’t flown Hi-Flier kites at some time in our youth.)  Reportedly, the company also produced RTF gliders from about 1935 to 1941.

Admittedly, I was not aware until recently that Hi-Flier produced such remarkable gliders.  Strangely … less than a week after I purchased this large Clipper … I came across a complete box of 4 Hi-Flier “mini-Clippers” from the same period.  These small gliders have a wingspan of about 8 inches.  

Equally remarkable is the story of how this box of little gliders survived the last 70 years.  They were among the childhood possessions of a gentleman who owned a farm in Wisconsin.  Sadly, he was killed in a farming accident in 1951.  His devoted wife was so distraught, that she immediately nailed shut their barn and sheds with all the equipment and materials inside.  She also stored all his belongings (including these gliders) in their farmhouse.  For her, time stopped in 1951.  When she recently passed away … the farm was sold to a neighboring family.  They were understandably amazed when they took over the farm, and discovered it was a 1950’s time capsule.