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High flier Harry (14) glides into Irish aviation history

HARRY Houlihan has made Irish aviation history after becoming the youngest person ever to undertake a solo flight in a glider.

The teen, from Hollywood, Co Wicklow, was the country's first ever beneficiary of a change to the aviation rules that reduced the minimum age for solo glider flight from 16 to 14 years old.

Harry (14) will this year sit his Junior Cert, but before that he has already passed a major test by completing a 20 minute solo flight and successful landing, making him the youngest ever to do it.

His father John Houlihan told the Herald how the family was heavily involved in the feat.

glider

"A glider is not powered so it was his mother Olive who towed him to 2,000ft," he explained.

Mr Houlihan is a gliding instructor and he gave his son lessons at the Ulster Gliding Club in Bellarena, Co Derry for a year, before the solo run.

"He flew for over 25 hours over 45 flights in the course of a year," he said.

The proud father said that before his son was deemed ready to take flight on his own, he had to be assessed by an independent panel.

When Harry passed that test, he was ready on Saturday to take off and fly into the history books.

"He was a little bit apprehensive about the flight and he doubted his ability," Mr Houlihan said. "But there was no question in my mind that he was ready for it."

Harry flew for around 20 minutes and stayed within a six mile radius of the airfield before performing a perfect landing.

"The landing was perfect, better than some of the members of the club," his dad said.

Young Harry also described the experience of the flight.

"It's the most exciting thing I've ever done, it's so much better without an instructor sitting behind you," he said.

And he wasn't keen to rest on the success, performing a second flight on Sunday.

Harry's uncle Kevin Houlihan also set an Irish record earlier in the summer when he flew his glider for over seven and a half hours, covering more than 500km.

Harry, who is going into third year at Naas CBS, has also begun learning how to fly powered aircraft.

Aviation runs in the family - Harry's parents even met while learning to fly.

"We met on an airfield and it was love at first sight," Mr Houlihan said.

hnews@herald.ie


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