Sam takes to the Skies Solo at Age 14

Jane Reilly  |  Published: Jan 24th 2017
lining up for launch

Sam Smith from Weston Turville, this week became the youngest person to fly solo in a glider from RAF Halton in its 102 year flying history. Some achievement considering aviation commenced on the site back in 1913 and the very first licensed soaring glider pilot was an instructor at RAF Halton in 1930.

Aged 14 years and four months, Sam took to the skies in an ASK21 glider belonging to the Chilterns RAF Gliding and Soaring Activity Centre based on the airfield. Sam had just completed three instructional sorties when his instructor, Luke Hornsey, suggested he go solo. Sam was taken completely by surprise as he was not expecting this to happen so early, having only joined the club four months before. He found himself in a position of going solo with just short of five hours and 24 launches under his belt.

Sam comes from a gliding family with his father spending many years serving as an Air Cadet RAF Volunteer Reserve Training Officer and also with RAF Halton’s 613 Volunteer Gliding Squadron. His instructor is Flight Lieutenant Luke Hornsey, also a Volunteer Reservist, who is a member of staff and an officer from Berkhamsted School Combined Cadet Force.

With a very proud father and instructor looking on, Sam made a textbook flight from the Southerly runway at Halton. “I talked to myself the whole time” said Sam, “I treated it as though Luke was in the back with me and I was just telling him what I was doing, I was nervous but I loved every minute of it”.

A Cadet Corporal with 2409 (Halton) Squadron Air Training Corps and a pupil of Akeley Wood School in Buckingham, Sam has had a passion for aviation since he could walk and immerses himself in it at every opportunity.

Luke said: “Sam has been a pleasure to instruct.  He has enthusiasm, self-belief and ability. He should be proud of such a great achievement and I look forward to him continuing to develop as a glider pilot.”

Squadron Leader Gary Coleman, Officer Commanding Operations Squadron at RAF Halton airfield, said: “I was delighted to hear that Sam had flown solo so young. Gliding is an excellent sport that gives youths an incredible chance to experience the responsibility of solo flight. Further we need impressive individuals like Sam to start in Air Sports at a young age if we are to continue with British success in gliding. As a current Air Cadet Corporal I wish Sam every future success with gliding and also a career in the RAF should he wish to pursue it. In the meantime we at RAF Halton all hope to see him continue to grow into being a fine glider pilot and congratulate him again on this incredible achievement.”

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