On Wednesday August 15, Christian Fresson from Storrington turned 14 - the legal age to fly solo in a glider, and he celebrated the occasion by doing just that.
Watched by his family and towed to 2,000 feet by his father Kevin, Christian flew his glider from Parham Airfield for 20 minutes and made a perfect approach landing.
“We’re terribly proud he managed to go solo,” said Kevin. “He’s absolutely thrilled as he’s been aiming for it for ages. He’s really single-minded, he’s really determined and we’re just terribly proud of him.”
Christian, who has been a member of Southdown Gliding Club for just over a year, follows a family tradition of aviation.
His father flies Boeing 777s for a living and is an active member of the gliding club. His grandfather flew in the RAF, as did two of his great-uncles, one of whom flew with the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War.
“All he wants to do is fly,” added Kevin. “It’s absolutely fantastic to have a fourth generation flier, it really is. Whether he will be able to become an airline pilot is something else of course, but at the moment that’s his intention.
“Without any doubt every pilot remembers going solo for the first time. I wasn’t able to go solo until 16 I was because in those days the rules were different.”
Gliding is the art of flying without an engine where the pilot finds pockets of rising air and circles in them to gain height. In this manner, gliders can travel considerable distances and this summer three pilots from Southdown flew over 750 kilometres in a single day.
Kevin said: “He’s very young to fly solo and they don’t let them do it unless they’re absolutely certain.
“And it’s not just the flying, it’s about being able to deal with unforeseen eventualities and not every 14-year-old can deal with problems that are thrown at them at them very quickly.
“Of course we have to make sure the weather is just right and the child is well and in the right frame of mind and not too tired, and it worked really well. The weather wasn’t particularly good the day before or after so he was really lucky.”
Membership at Southdown Gliding Club runs from the early teens to the mid 80s and all are welcome. Visit www.southdowngliding.co.uk