SHE’S still too young to drive a car – but flying a plane is no problem for 14-year-old Zoe Mallam.
The teenager celebrated her 14th birthday at 2,000ft as she flew a glider over Daedalus Airfield at Lee-on-the-Solent.
Zoe became only the second girl in the UK to be a solo pilot on her 14th birthday and is the youngest-ever female to do a solo flight at Portsmouth Naval Gliding Club, which dates back to the 1940s.
Zoe did not start flying lessons until last July, but her talent has quickly developed.
After a couple of practice sessions with an instructor, the teenager flew the half-tonne K21 on her own.
The take-off and landing were almost perfect and she emerged from the cockpit to a round of applause.
After the flight, she posed for pictures with her mum and dad, Sally and Neil Mallam, who brought along a birthday cake.
Zoe told The News: ‘I was not as nervous as I thought I was going to be. I have done it so many times before with an instructor in the back not really saying anything.
‘So it was easier than I expected. I had a sudden realisation “I’m on my own now, I feel so free”. It was a weird feeling.’
She added it was the ‘best birthday’ of her lifetime. None of her immediate family have particular links with flying – apart from one notable mention.
Her great-grandfather William Case was a draughtsman who helped to design the fuselage for Spitfires.
Mrs Mallam was biting her nails during the flight, but gave her daughter a congratulatory hug afterwards.
The 51-year-old, from Fair Oak, near Eastleigh, said: ‘I’m really proud. I was quite nervous being her mum – my baby going up into the sky like that. She’s amazing, it’s funny to think she’s only 14.’
Tony World, chief flying instructor, said: ‘She’s one of two girls in the UK who have flown solo since the law was changed.
‘It used to be you had to be 16. We have adopted European law. It’s a big thing for anybody to go solo. She’s certainly got a flair for it.’
Zoe and James Kirby, 14, from Lee-on--the-Solent, will soon be flying a K6CR that was recently restored after sitting in a barn for 16 years.