Teenage glider pilot flies solo for first time on 14th birthday

Image source, Guy Westgate
Image caption,
Alex Westgate said he spent most of the flight coaching himself along

A teenager has become one of the youngest people to fly a glider plane solo on his 14th birthday.

Alex Westgate took to the air on his own on Wednesday at Husbands Bosworth airfield in Leicestershire.

The young pilot, who began training during the first lockdown, said he felt "very calm" behind the wheel and coached himself along.

"It really felt amazing flying the glider and being up in the air all by myself," he said.

"I was talking to myself a lot because I was the only one there and I wanted to get everything perfect and land safely."

'A great achievement'

Alex, from Storrington, West Sussex, began learning to fly gliders in his spare time in March.

Helpfully his father, Guy, is a commercial pilot and instructor in Leicestershire, so was able to carry out the training.

"One of the most amazing things has been watching him develop and blossom... over the last six months," said Mr Westgate.

"The training has given him an opportunity of taking responsibility, taking instructions, planning ahead and thinking in an emergency situation."

Image source, Guy Westgate
Image caption,
Guy Westgate trained his son Alex to fly over the summer

Mr Westgate said luckily the second lockdown was lifted before Alex's birthday and airfields under tier three restrictions were able to open for individual flying and training.

"I don't know who was more nervous," added Mr Westgate.

"He is a typical teenager. I had to remind him to take his coat and do up his shoelaces that morning and now he is taking responsibility for [a glider].

"It's really odd to see your own son flying a glider solo at such a young age."

It is legal to fly solo from aged 14 but Pete Stratten, from the British Gliding Association, (BGA) said not everyone had the chance to do it on their 14th birthday.

"It's great they were able to do that training during the Covid lockdown, being from the same household," he added

"It's a great achievement."

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