By Alex Matthews
A schoolgirl is taking to the skies two years before she can begin to drive – having made her first solo flight in a glider.
Holly Harris, 15, spends most of her weekends thousands of feet in the air after she completes her homework.
The teenager, from Edgton in Shropshire, made almost 50 flights with an instructor and went through an intensive training programme. She is now able to pilot a glider on her own.
Holly, who has “flying in her blood”, believes that flying is the perfect hobby for any teenager to have.
The pupil at Church Stretton High School said: “I really love flying. It’s an awesome experience. I really recommend it to young people as a hobby.
“This seemed like a great way to start flying. But it’s not just about the flying, it’s about the groundwork and helping other people to launch.
“I have done 10 solo flights now and I love being up in the air. It takes a lot of skill and a lot of practice because you don’t have an engine.
“I have thought about a career in flying but I don’t know.”
Holly had always had an interest in flying and mechanics, and was driving go-karts from the age of four.
Children are allowed to start piloting a glider when they can reach the pedals, which is typically around the age of 12.
It came as no surprise to her parents when Holly expressed an interest in learning when the Midland Gliding Club were looking for younger members.
Holly’s mum Sian, a clinical quality manager for the NHS, said: “The gliding club were looking for young people to join as they can glide from 12-year-old and depending on their competency they can take their solo flight from aged 14, so Holly joined.
“She already had a huge interest in flying and loved going in helicopters and things.
“The club is so inclusive but there seems to be very few young people there.
“Now when Holly glides she’s completely on her own.
“Interestingly Holly can fly an aircraft but is not old enough to drive a car.”
As gliders depend heavily on the weather and the amount of warm air to stay aloft, Holly’s flight times have varied.
Her mum admits that it is quite daunting to think of her flying over the Shropshire skies for a long time,
Sian said: “Holly has had a two minute flight and a two hour flight. It all depends on the thermals.
“The pilots then choose which field to land in, apologize to the farmer and call the gliding club to get picked up.
“As a parent I only went in one myself recently and there is a lot more involved to flying one than I first anticipated, it’s a really big deal to think of your child up 3,000ft in the air on her own.”
Holly’s dad Martin, who runs a car company, believes flying can be quite an affordable hobby for younger people and something more of them should consider.
Each of Holly’s flights, after club membership, cost just £5.50 for the launch, and he says the Caroline Trust can award a bursary of up to £250 to get young people flying.
He said: “It’s not something a lot of people consider, but flying is in Holly’s blood and she has really enjoyed it. From the experience she has had, I would recommend it to anyone else.
“In fact her brother Ben is learning now, and he wants to be flying by the time he is 14. It’s a bit of healthy family competition.
“It’s great for giving them a confidence boost and a real sense of responsibility.
“Buying their own glider is out of the question. It would be so much cheaper to own a horse. But as a member of the club it’s really not expensive.
“It would be great for Holly and Ben to have a few friends up there.”