Aviation history was made on Saturday (September 27) as the youngest pilot ever to fly solo in Sussex took to the skies over Horsham District.
Student pilots George Rendell, Oliver Jaggar, and Charlie Brooker - all under the age of 17 - took their first solo glider flights that day.
All three are budding cadet members of Southdown Gliding Club, based at Parham Airfield near Storrington.
The youngest was Charlie, 14 years and three months old, who had just reached a crucial part of his training.
His instructor, Steve Way, felt it was time to send him solo and, in doing so, Charlie created a bit of aviation history in Sussex by becoming the youngest pilot ever to fly an aircraft solo in Sussex.
Charlie, a student at Tanbridge House School in Horsham, had been looking forward to this day for many months.
He was understandably elated. “I am on top of the world that I have managed to fly solo at such a young age,” he said. “I would like to thank all the instructors and members of Southdown Gliding Club who have offered such massive encouragement. From here on, the only way is up!”
Charlie’s proud father Kevin was also there to see his son fly solo.
Kevin, a microlight pilot himself, was beaming with pleasure knowing his son was following in his footsteps.
He said afterwards: “Thanks to the club’s massive support to enable Charlie to reach today’s huge milestone!”
Charlie loves mathematics, IT, and Science, and is hoping for a career in aviation as a commercial pilot.
Dave Clews, the club’s membership secretary, said: “We at the club are all very proud of Charlie and hope this is the start of a very long and hopefully successful journey for him.”
Southdown Gliding Club operates a cadet scheme where young people who show promise are heavily subsidised to help them with the cost of flying training.
Many former cadets have gone on to pursue careers in aviation, and the club includes many airline pilots in its membership.