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Schoolboy pilot joins elite in solo flight aged just 14

Lewis Bond (14) from Rasharkin, Co Antrim who completed his first solo flight in a glider. Picture by Mal McCann

A 14-year-old from Co Antrim has joined an elite group of pilots who have taken to the skies in a solo glider flight.

It has been the dream of Lewis Bond to fly since he was seven years old, when he and his elder brother Michael first looked into learning to be pilots.

His first lesson was a gift from his brother for his twelfth birthday - six months after that flight Michael, who had survived a brain tumour, died from a brain haemorrhage.

"Lewis was doing it in tribute to Michael, not just for his career," his mother Dawn said.

"He has bulled on despite everything that has been thrown at him."

Although he trains with the Ulster Gliding Club in Bellarena, Co Derry, the school boy, who is in Year 11 at St Paul's Kilrea, travelled to England for the landmark flight after its two suitable gliders became unavailable.

Anxious not to fall behind in his training, he travelled to York Gliding Club in Rufforth, where instructors assessed his ability and put him through intensive training before allowing him to take to the skies alone.

"It was just the same handling, but the plane just felt lighter," Lewis said.

"It was an experience."

The minimum age for going solo as a glider pilot was dropped last year from 16 to 14 and Lewis now joins the ranks of just a handful of solo glider pilots in the younger bracket in the UK.

Ulster Gliding Club congratulated Lewis on his "magnificent achievement".

Lewis now plans to continue training and eventually fulfil his dream of becoming a commercial aeroplane pilot travelling across the world.

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