Teenager reaches for the skies

WITH a year still to go before he can have a provisional licence to drive a car, 16-year-old Matt Rowlands has mastered another form of transport - and qualified as a solo glider pilot.

By Roddy Ashworth

WITH a year still to go before he can have a provisional licence to drive a car, 16-year-old Matt Rowlands has mastered another form of transport - and qualified as a solo glider pilot.

Ipswich-born Matt flies at the Essex and Suffolk Gliding Club at Wormingford and, with an instructor sitting behind him, has been taking off and landing gliders since he was 10.

Now, having passed his 16th birthday, he is legally allowed to fly on his own and since making his first solo flight has been undertaking longer trips into the air above Essex and Suffolk, seeking out the thermals which keep him aloft without the need for an engine.


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The former Stanway School Pupil, from Fordham, said yesterday he had always been interested in flying.

“When my dad became a member of the club I went up for a trial flight and got really interested,” he added.

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The teenager, who is due to begin studying A Levels in physics, maths, electronics and computing at Colchester Sixth Form College in September, said he qualified as a pilot on July 20.

He added: “You have to take a check flight, which is like a driving test. A lot of it is about safety, and what to do if things go wrong.

“Around here you can stay in the air for 10 minutes or a couple of hours. You can only go to 3,000 feet because of the Stansted airspace.

“On my first solo flight I was up for about a quarter of an hour, but since then I've done 45 minutes. There have been people from the club going to France before.

“At the moment I have only been flying over the airfield but I am hoping to take my bronze test soon which will allow me to fly further afield.”

Matt is hoping to go to university after his A Levels while his ultimate ambition is to become an airline pilot.

And to that end he is working in his spare time to pay for powered flying lessons, allowing him to reach his next goal - a private pilot's licence.

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