Junior Pilot Ben’s First Cross Country Flight

Last Sunday, 17 year old Junior Glider Pilot Ben L flew his first cross-country solo gliding flight from Stratford on Avon Gliding Club.

After achieving my bronze and cross-country endorsement (Thank you Mike, Barry and Andy) I was keen to take the leap and fly out of gliding range of the airfield on my 50Km attempt. But before I could embark on this adventure, I received an email saying my application for the ‘Junior Nationals’ two seat training had been accepted! I spent 10 days at Bristol and Gloucestershire Gliding Club where I flew with some of the UK’s best pilots and had a go at some competition racing. Overall, I achieved more than 10 hrs of training on my three flights, which was all subsidised by the BGA!

This amazing experience motivated me even more to embark on my 50km flight, but with a few setbacks due to weather I found myself frustrated and looking at every forecast I could get my hands on, waiting and longing for the perfect day. That day came on Sunday the 8th September 2019 and I woke up early, excited about the potential day ahead. I helped prepare the gliders for flight and spent some time carefully wiping down the wings of the Astir, to ensure every last part of the gliders performance could be eked out. Many thanks to all that helped me prepare the Astir and to Mike ensuring my flight plan was up to scratch.

I took off at 12:45 aiming to fly 53.5km to Bicester airfield then another 53.5km back to Snitterfield! Well that was the plan anyway. After launching I secured my first climb of the day gaining 1,841ft with an average climb rate of 2.5knts. Eventually I started my task at 13:09 and with 3,500ft I pushed south leaving behind me the birds that had just aided my last thermal choice.

Following and jumping the cloud streets I flew over familiar sites, two of which being Caffeine and Machine, (a car enthusiast’s dream place) and eventually the M40, whilst still using all the ground reference points to ensure my electronic nav kit was in fact taking me to Bicester.

Eventually after only 50 minutes I found myself approaching the turn point, shortly after navigating around the restricted airspace in which skydivers would be jumping!

On my return leg I hit the most exhilarating part of the flight, I had just left Bicester and hit some tremendous lift which instilled the thought in my brain that the whole edge of this cloud street must be working so I pushed on, only to hit tremendous sink. I continued on to the next part of the street that looked remotely thermic but – more sink!

I made the decision to turn back to the lift I had previously encountered, as by this point I had already lost 1600ft and was down to 2500ft. Staring deeply at the cars whizzing down the M40 I climbed back to 4300ft and continued the flight where I managed to fly at 90Kts down a cloud street whilst holding my altitude. I was back into familiar territory and proceeded to fly towards the finishing line.

It was so rewarding and exhilarating to think I had flown over 100km without an engine! With this thought in my head I continued to fly for another 3 hrs, where I got to see hang gliders, hot air balloons, helicopters and other light aircraft! Just after landing I opened the canopy and heard ‘Well done Ben’ as some of the members congratulated me on my flight from the glider they had landed just before me.

Overall, I flew for 5 hours, 6 minutes achieving all of my Silver C Badge and part one of my 100K Diploma.

It was a great day and I encourage anyone who has the slightest interest in either taking up gliding or progressing to cross country standard to go for it!

Its awesome!!

Archie, Emily, Alistair & Bob solo the K21 at SoAGC

Well done to Archie, Emily, Alistair and Bob who all solo’d in K21s at Stratford on Avon Gliding Club over a fantastic weekend of flying achievement.

Our junior sailplane pilots Archie, Emily & Alistair originally trained and flew their first solos in our vintage ‘wood’ K13 glider. The K21 type is their first, modern ‘glass’ (fibre-reinforced composite) two-seat trainer which they are now cleared to fly solo.

Next stop for them is our glass single-seater fleet, the Junior, Astir & LS4.

Bob also flew his first ever sailplane solo flight in Stratford’s K21 G-CGAG.

An honourable mention for Dave G who was also authorised solo on the K21 although he is already flying our glass single-seaters.

Many thanks to duty instructors Andy S on Saturday & Mike C on Sunday who flew the checkrides and authorised the new K21 pilots. Many thanks as well to all of the club members who turned up and helped make the weekend work.

Emily goes solo in a glider at the age of 14

Junior glider pilot Emily flew her first solo glider flight from Stratford on Avon Gliding club last Sunday.

Emily, who is just 14 years old was met on landing and congratulated by her dad.

Emily has beaten her dad, also a pre-solo pilot and at Snitterfield and a qualified power pilot to the first glider solo goal. Hopefully this is a good sign of future family competition as they progress as glider pilots.

Stratford Full-Cat instructor Barry K put Emily through her paces with simulated launch failures and general handling tests before authorising her first solo flight.

Despite being late season, there was enough lift for a few thermal turns before returning to Snitterfield for a spot-landing parallel to the northerly cross-track.

Emily takes over from Ben as the youngest solo glider pilot at Snitterfield.

Ben Converts onto the Astir.

14 year old glider pilot Ben E has converted onto Stratford on Avon Gliding Club’s Astir single-seater today.

Ben, who went solo only ten months ago on his 14th birthday at Snitterfield recently spent a week crewing for another Stratford junior pilot at the UK Junior Nationals competition at Nympsfield.

Already flying the two seaters and the SZD Junior single seater, the Astir is Ben’s first serious cross-country capable aircraft with retractable undercarriage and water ballast systems.

Ben will be able to enter cross-country competitive flying himself when he turns 16 and completes his Silver C. In the mean time, he will be able to work towards his Bronze Endorsement / Licence.

Emily and Alistair Try Loops

Student Junior Glider Pilots Emily and Alistair had their first experience of basic aerobatics as passengers with Dan B on Sunday at SoAGC.

They both thoroughly enjoyed their flights.


Aerobatic training is an option in the UK for post-solo pilots within the BGA and to the British Aerobatic Association competitive standards.

Most two-seat training gliders in the UK are capable of at least basic aerobatics. Stratford on Avon Gliding currently club operate two K21 gliders which can perform the BAeA basic figures.