Ladislav ‘Ladi’ Marmol

Ladi Marmol

Founder/Director of Air ADS, ADS Aerial, Executive Flying Services and Marmol Aviation from 1950 to 1987

In Ladislav Marmol or ‘Ladi’ as he was more commonly known, Southend would gain one of the staunchest proponents of gliding and one of the real pioneers of post-war, British light aviation. Born in Moravia in the western part of Czechoslovakia on June 27th 1920, he took to the air from a young age and was barely a teenager when he started flying gliders. Sadly though, the Second World War would cut his gliding career short and the year 1939 would witness the start of his harrowing flight from the Nazis which took him across much of Europe. Having initially been imprisoned in his own country he was later picked up in France, Belgium and Spain, absconding each time with his multitude of escapes finally culminating in his arrival in Britain at the end of 1943. However, despite his desire to join the ranks of the Free Czech Air Force, the war had drawn to a close by the time he had finished his training, yet despite this he decided to make a post-war career for himself in civil aviation.

With the reopening of Southend Airport in 1947, ‘Ladi’ came to SEN from where he would eventually begin to fly goods between Prague and Southend in single engined trainers. It wasn’t long until he found a home for his small fleet in the former Southend Corporation shed on the eastern perimeter Airshowfrom where he began a number of successful businesses, more of which you can read about in the ‘Other SEN Firms’ section of this website. Ladi’s ventures included his first commercial enterprise which took off in 1950 and was known as Air Ads Ltd, this company involving itself primarily with airborne advertising. After a couple of mishaps, the remainder of the company was absorbed into ADS Aerial Ltd, which concentrated on aerial dusting and spraying. Later, he started Executive Air Services which was fundamentally an air taxi operation while Marmol Aviation took care of the engineering and spares side of the business. Being based at Southend, this also gave ‘Ladi’ the chance to wow the crowds with his flying skills and he would regularly put in an appearance at a number of Southend Airshows.

However, it was his love of gliding that lie closest to his heart and in 1947, he became a gliding instructor at Southend’s Municipal Gliding School. Then in 1949, he went on to break the World Record for EX5601096 - CopyLadi Recordendurance flying in one of his two beloved, Zlin Krajanek gliders, a record that still stands to this very day and will likely never be beaten, being as for reasons of safety, these kinds of attempts were summarily banned not long afterwards. Another ‘Ladi’ record, and one that would certainly not have been encouraged by any kind of flying association, was the number of passes made while slope soaring…inverted!!! A record that will more than certainly go unbroken. He later added to his ‘fleet’ of gliders with the purchase of a Lunak and did a good number of displays in this airframe, performing a variety of stunts that would have even made the most seasoned of aviators go weak at the knees.

It was in July 1976, that ‘Ladi’ Marmol finally came to national attention in his attempts to help control a huge fire that had engulfed the head ofFire Southend Pier. For those of us who were around at the time, the iconic image in the Evening Echo of him buzzing low over the almost uncontrollable blaze while dropping a deluge of water upon it from his tiny Thrush Commander would invariably be forever etched in our memories and as such, ‘Ladi’ was rightfully considered something of a local hero for doing what he could to assist the fire services in putting out the flames. He made a number of trips over the pier, each time dropping hundreds of gallons of water, mostly where the fire tugs that had come to the pier’s aid could not reach, being as the fire had started during low tide and the resulting inferno had knocked most of the pier’s fire fighting equipment out of service too.

Ladi Marmol 1Needless to say, even a great and indomitable pilot such as ‘Ladi’ could not go on forever and with more than 25,000 flying hours under his belt, he finally hung up his wings in 1987 and moved from Rochford to Benfleet where he would quietly spend the last 10 years of his life with his wife and business partner Olive before sadly passing away on November 1st 1997. As a somewhat fitting tribute to his contribution and long-term connection to Southend and the airport, there is a memorial to ‘Ladi’ at the Rochford Lawn Cemetery.

To the left, Ladislav ‘Ladi’ Marmol sits at the controls of his much loved LET Z-37 Cmelak (Bumble Bee)  G-AVZB not long before his retirement.

Many thanks to Scott and Antony Irvin for their help in providing first hand information, the newspaper article and a number of photos for this page.


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