Meet Suffolk’s youngest female solo glider pilot
A teenager from Suffolk has taken to the skies in her first solo flight in a glider - the youngest female pilot in the county to do it.
Lucy Clarke, 16, from Creeting St Mary, took up the high-flying pastime 18 months ago and has fallen in love with the experience of soaring silently through the sky.
The Debenham High School student, who is currently waiting for her GCSE results, has recently braved a solo flight, taking off, gliding and landing with just her in the cockpit.
Lucy said there is nothing quite like the feeling of being in the air.
"I absolutely love it," she said. "I love seeing everything from so high up. "The view you can get on a really good day is amazing.
"Even from Wattisham, you can see all the way to the Orwell Bridge.
"It's so peaceful up there because you don't have the engine you have on a powered aircraft.
"When I glide, which is every Saturday, I get about four flights in a day.
"It all depends on the weather because if it's really good for gliding and you have pockets of hot air you can stay up for hours at a time.
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"The longest I have been up for is around two hours."
Lucy, who starts at Thurston Sixth Form in September, said she is looking for a career in aviation in the future and wants to be a pilot in the RAF or to fly commercially.
After picking up the flying bug from her father Tony, who is an air traffic controller based at Wattisham, Lucy started accompanied gliding in April last year.
Since then, she has grown in confidence and was delighted when her instructor Eric Hibbard at the Wattisham-based Army Gliding Club (Anglia) said she could go up alone.
Lucy took her first solo flight in her stride.
She said: "For me it doesn't feel all that different because I had done all the training I needed. "My instructor trusted me so I can trust myself."
Lucy recently took a trip to the Royal International Air Tattoo in Gloucestershire and ended up meeting celebrity astronaut Major Tim Peake, who was amazed at Lucy's achievement.
She said: "He congratulated me, said well done and told me that every pilot knows how big a deal it is to go solo."
A spokesman for the British Gliding Association said: "I would like to congratulate Lucy on her achievement, and hope that this is the start of a very long and successful gliding career for her.
"As I'm sure she will soon find out, going solo is just the beginning.
"I would encourage those interested in aviation, especially young people, from any background to go along to their local gliding club and try the sport."
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