FLYING HIGH: Glider pilot breaks record with 26,000ft flight

Paul Myers of BAE Systems in his glider
Paul Myers of BAE Systems in his glider
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Lancashire worker Paul Myers has literally reached the height of his gliding career.

The BAE Systems HR manager achieved the maximum height gain in a glider in the UK for 2014 when he soared to over 26,000 feet.

That’s as little as 4,000 feet below the cruising height of a commercial airliner.

The Warton based boss has always had a head for heights having taken his first flight in a glider at the age of 17. Like a duck to water, it came naturally to Paul who currently flies and instructs at Bowland Forest Gliding Club at Chipping nr Preston.

When Paul set out on October 2 from Cairngorm Gliding Club, near Aviemore, in the Highlands of Scotland, he had no intentions of smashing any records.

It was simply a nice day for a nice flight and he was looking forward to taking in the breath-taking scenery from the peaceful comfort of his Ventus glider.

The forecast was good with reasonably strong winds and a cloudbase of 3,000-3,500ft. Paul comfortably climbed to 12,000ft way above the low cloud. There were higher wispy clouds indicating more lift but they were a way off. He noticed a larger wave cloud with a vertical leading edge near the Linn of Dee about 12 miles away so he pushed over and found about a rate of climb of about 300-400 feet per minute.

At this stage he’d got confirmation from below that the “wave boxes” (airspace) had been opened by Scottish Air traffic Control, which allowed Paul to climb to about 20,000ft.

After flying to the higher clouds Paul continued to gain height, passing 24,000ft. He was happy enough and took a few photos along the way.

Then things started to get bit hairy. His attire of a sweatshirt and fleece hadn’t prepared him for the -27C temperatures. His oxygen mask had also taken a turn for the worse having frozen up in parts due to the cold depriving him of oxygen.

Said Paul: “After dismissing calling for help as a stupid idea (I’d better fix the problem, not talk about it!) I held the mask to my face and squeezed the bag taking deep breaths. Fortunately that seemed to do the trick, but I suddenly felt cold and lonely and a bit vulnerable.”

It took a while to get down to 10,000ft from that point where he could dispense with the oxygen.

Paul decided to head back to the airfield and took a couple more snaps on the way.

Once back on the ground, he had the flight recorder analysed which showed a maximum height of 26,446ft had been reached. Paul was delighted to learn that his three and a half hour epic adventure had won him the British Gliding Association De Havilland Trophy for 2014, awarded for maximum gain of height.

Paul will collect his trophy next month in Nottingham at the British Gliding Association’s annual meeting and awards dinner.