A Rasharkin pupil from St Paul’s College in Kilrea has become the youngest glider pilot in Northern Ireland to complete a solo fight...at the age of just 14!
Lewis Bond undertook his solo flight at Rufforth - the home of York Gliding Club - last Friday after a spell of intensive training from the Yorkshire instructors, building upon Lewis’s natural ability and the skills he had learned from training with the Ulster Gliding Club in Bellarena, near Magilligan.
Lewis’s mother Dawn told the Times: “Ever since he was small, about seven or eight maybe, Lewis always wanted to be a pilot.
“He always talked about it but it was only during the summer between primary and secondary school that his older brother Michael researched it with him about how he would start.
“Lewis was only 12 and Michael bought him his first lesson as a birthday present.” Sadly, Michael died six months after that.
Dawn continued: “The Ulster Gliding Club had been training him and preparing him for his solo flight.
“Unfortunately they then lost the use of the suitable glider for Lewis so last week we headed over to York Gliding Club in Rufforth.
“Lewis did some very intense training and assessments over there. He also had to adapt very quickly to things such as landing on tarmac as opposed to landing in grass like he does with the Ulster Gliding Club, using a different airfield, different instructors.
“Last Friday was the day he did his solo flight and he did brilliantly.
“It was touch and go whether the flight would go ahead because of weather conditions which had to be dead right.
“Lewis did extremnely well beause there was another pilot up in another glider at the same time who was supposed to stay away from Lewis but they ended up coming in to land at the same time, almost a synchronised landing.
“Lewis is a man of few words but he was beaming when he landed.
“So he managed in very testing conditions. The instructors in York were very impressed with Lewis and have invited him back any time he wants.
“He just had this desire since he was a tot and it has statyed with him. The instructors at the Ulster Gliding Cliub told me that he has ‘got it’, he has the aptitude.
“They have been very supportive and so has his school St Paul’s in Kilrea. They made a big fuss of him when he went back to school after the flight and were very supportive of his training days.”
And Lewis is not content to rest on his laurels. His next aim is to fly solo over here and then move onto his bronze award and eventually make the step to a motorised vehicle,