Thomas (14) takes to the sky

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While many Northern Irish teenagers this summer holiday are glued to their smartphones and looking for Pokemon down on the ground, one Banbridge schoolboy is looking to the sky.

At fourteen years of age, Banbridge Academy schoolboy Thomas Evans is believed to be the youngest glider pilot from Northern Ireland to complete his first solo flight in the Province.

Thomas Evans, from Boggle Hill Road in Banbridge completed his first solo flight on the north coast at the Ulster Gliding Club, Bellarena on the morning of Friday July 22.

“It is something I always wanted to do,” explained Thomas. “My grandfather was my instructor so it runs in the family. Although I have a brother but he isn’t really interested.

“There was a list of things that I needed to do before I could fly solo and I was delighted to complete the list. I hope to be up in the air quite often.”

The Banbridge teenager was taught to glide by his instructor, and grandfather, Lawrence McKelvie at the Ulster Gliding Centre in Bellarena, close to Limavady.

“It must be in the genes,” said Lawrence. “I started gliding when I was 16 but Thomas has gone solo much younger than that.

“There is a complete, start to finish training programme that we have to complete safely.

“I speak from a slightly biased viewpoint but I was very impressed and proud of Thomas’ achievement. He is very talented and has great enthusiasm.”

Gliders use the same air currents that birds use and they have been designed with aerodynamic efficiency that enables top speeds of up to 170 mph. Distances of over 200 miles have been covered from Bellarena in one day and heights in excess of 20,000 feet have been achieved.