Young glider pilot breaks RAF record on solo flight

Sam Smith
Sam Smith

A teenager from Weston Turville has become the youngest person to fly solo from RAF Halton in its 102-year flying history.

Sam Smith, aged 14, took to the skites in an ASK21 glider belonging to the Chilterns RAF Gliding and Soaring Activity Centre based on the airfield, on Sunday, January 22.

Sam had just completed three instructional sorties when his instructor Luke Hornsey said that he ought to go and do it on his own. Sam, who only joined the club last September, went solo with only 4 hours and 56 minutes 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 Flt Lt Luke Hornsey who is a member of staff and an officer from Berkhampsted School Combined Cadet Force plus also the Deputy Chief Flying Instructor with the gliding centre.

With his proud father David and instructor looking on, Sam made a textbook flight from the southerly runway at Halton.

He said: “I talked to myself the whole time. 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.

The Chief Flying Instructor, Chief Technician Paul Moslin, sent the following message to all club members: “I would like to congratulate Sam Smith on his first solo today. A great achievement for anyone, but at 14 and 4 months and with only 5 hrs makes it even more special. Well done Sam.”

Sqn Ldr 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. Just the day before, the British Gliding Team were crowned World Champions at the World Gliding Championships in Australia, and I would hope that Sam and others like him continue in their successful footsteps. 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.”