Teenager takes to the skies
High-flying teenager Sam Arnold celebrated her 14th birthday by becoming the youngest girl to pilot a glider in the UK.
Sam, of Salmons Leap, Calne, has taken advantage of a change in European regulations which has reduced the age limit for piloting a glider to 14.
She started training just before Christmas and her first solo flight, with the Bannerdown Gliding Club at Keevil Airfield, lasted around ten minutes.
The Dauntsey’s School pupil first flew with her parents Jon and Alison when she was one. Now she plans to train for qualifications to allow her to fly cross country.
Miss Arnold said: “I’m really happy and proud that I did it on my birthday.
“I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it because the forecast wasn’t good. It was fairly miserable, but it was viable.
“I used to worry about it, but now I’ve done it a couple of times it’s not as scary. You still get nervous, but you get over it.
“It’s just so quiet and peaceful up there; the views and the feeling you get is amazing.”
Mr Arnold is an RAF engineer working for the MoD at Abbey Wood, near Bristol, and is the officer in charge of the Bannerdown Gliding Club.
The club is mainly for service personnel and their families, but it has opened its doors to a group from Abbeyfield School, Chippenham, and the Chippenham Air Scouts.
Mr Arnold, who flew solo when he was 19, said: “The significance is that she is the first girl ever to fly solo on their 14th birthday in the UK.
“There have been a couple of boys who have achieved this but Sam is the first girl.
“It does make me feel proud that she’s able to achieve that and on her birthday as well.
“Flying without an engine is quite exhilarating, and every flight is unique.”