Up, up and away for birthday boy Ben

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Ben Mullins is still a year from being able to drive on the road but he has already taken to the skies in a solo flight.

The teenager celebrated his 16th birthday with the solo glider flight 2,000ft up in the air out of the former HMS Daedalus airfield at Lee-on-the-Solent.

He has only been flying for the past two-and-a-half months, but had impressed instructors so much with his skills they agreed to let him take the flight on his own at the first possible opportunity.

Sixteen is the legal minimum age in the UK for flying a glider alone.

Ben, a year 11 pupil at Cams Hill School in Fareham, said: 'It was excellent - it surpassed anything I could have dreamt of.

'I've not been doing this for very long. I first went down to the airfield in January just to have a chat with some of the people and that led from one thing to another.

'I didn't think I would be flying by myself so soon. Judging from the experiences of others I thought it would be another year or so.'

Before his solo flight Ben had logged the minimum 20 flights with a co-pilot and had taken an intensive training course.

He also had to pass a medical examination.

'I will definitely stick with this,' said Ben, from Serpentine Road, Fareham.

'There are a lot of achievements you can gain, so I will be chasing after those in the next few years.'

Ben took three short final practice flights with an instructor on the day before getting to take the controls by himself.

His instructor Tom Edwards, from the Portsmouth Naval Glider Club, said: 'You can start flying with an instructor quite young so we have people here at 13 or 14, but what is so unusual about Ben is that he only started doing this a couple of months ago.

'When I first flew with Ben I asked him how many flights he had done, he said it was only five.

'He really impressed me with how well he was doing, and he was doing everything up to a very high standard.

'We got to the point where I told him, if you can get the afternoon off of school and your parents agree to it I'll run the airfield for you on your birthday.

'He was very keen and his dad came along with him and it all went very well.

After the flight Ben joked: 'For my birthday next year I'd like to get a glider of my own.'