Teenager becomes youngest in UK to make solo glider flight

Oxford Mail: Callum Lavenders of Bicester Gliding Club Callum Lavenders of Bicester Gliding Club

A TEENAGER has flown into the record books after becoming the UK’s youngest person to fly a glider solo.

Callum Lavenders, 14, took to the sky above Bicester in total command of the aircraft – despite being three years away from getting his provisional driving licence.

The move comes after the minimum age for flying a glider solo was reduced from 16 to 14 in line with the rest of Europe in October.

Callum, of Chinnor, near Thame, a member of Bicester Gliding Club, took off and landed at RAF Bicester airfield, off Skimmingdish Lane, where the club is based, and flew at about 1,200ft for around six minutes.

And he enjoyed the solo experience so much he went up on his own a total of five times last weekend.

The British Gliding Association confirmed he was the youngest to fly solo that it was aware of.

Lord Williams School pupil Callum said he was thrilled.

He said: “Before the flight I was nervous, but as soon as I started flying it, it all clicked in and became routine.

“It was peaceful up there. It was a routine flight so there wasn’t an awful lot of difference than usual. But knowing you were the only person in the aircraft, you can’t beat it.”

Before taking his solo flight, Callum had already clocked-up about 80 flights, and has been a regular at the airfield since he was a tot.

Callum’s father Mark, a glider and powered aircraft pilot, said: “When they changed the rules Callum said he wanted to see if he could go solo for his 14th birthday.

“He has worked very hard, I’m incredibly proud of him.

“I tried to steer the thing from the ground – it was very nerve-wracking watching him.

“He took the pressure really well, the training given to him at Bicester has been fantastic.”

Callum’s friend and fellow Bicester club member Alistair Emson also became one of a handful of UK youngsters who have now taken advantage of the new rules. The 15-year-old had planned to fly a glider solo on his 16th birthday, but the rule changes meant he could take to the sky a year early.

Alistair, who lives in Towcester and attends Bloxham School, flew at about 1,300ft for around five minutes.

He said: “I felt proud of myself for achieving what I had worked such a long time for.”

Bicester Gliding Club director Lee Hitchins said: “We as a club are very proud of Callum and Alistair’s recent solo flights. “Flying any aircraft on your own demands a certain level of maturity and both of them have shown a maturity beyond their years, both in the cockpit and around the club in general.”

Last month George Barrett, 15, of Bicester, became the first under 16 member Oxford Gliding Club to fly solo.

Anyone interested in the club’s cadet scheme, which offers subsidised flying lessons, should go to bicesterglidingcentre.org.uk

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