A 14-YEAR-old Hampshire boy has become the youngest pilot to solo-fly out of Middle Wallop Airfield.

Just two days after his birthday, Tom Li, who lives in Middle Wallop and attends Embley School at West Wellow, took to the skies alone in an ASK-21 type glider.

Under the guidance of experienced flight instructors at Portsmouth Navel Gliding Centre (PNGC), he started his formal flight training when he turned 12. Tom took to the air for his solo flight from Middle Wallop Airfield on May 27 after years of preparation.

Hampshire Chronicle: Tom Li (centre) with parents Joe and RheaTom Li (centre) with parents Joe and Rhea (Image: PNGC)Upon landing, he was greeted with cheers and applause from the gathered crowd, which included his parents and instructors. Describing the experience as “simultaneously surreal and exhilarating”, Tom said: “Through PNGC I have grown as an individual as well as an aviator, and I aspire to chase a future in the industry.”

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Tom’s dad Joe said: “We bought Tom a gliding experience flight for his 12th birthday as we used to watch the gliders fly over our house from Middle Wallop. From that first flight Tom was hooked, he thoroughly enjoyed learning to fly and he took his first solo flight just two days after turning 14.

“To be the youngest ever solo pilot at Middle Wallop is a massive achievement, we are so proud of him. PNGC has been such a welcoming club and we really want to thank all the members and instructors who have supported Tom through his introduction into flying.”

PNGC’s Chief Flight Instructor, Tony World, praised Tom's determination and piloting skills, saying: “Tom has demonstrated not only exceptional talent but also a level of maturity and responsibility beyond his years. We are immensely proud of his achievement and foresee a bright future for him in the world of aviation.”

The Middle Wallop airfield dates back to before Word War Two.