Proud day for grandad as Thomas takes to sky

Thomas Evans youngest solo gider flight in NI with Lisburn Grandad Laurence McKelvie
Thomas Evans youngest solo gider flight in NI with Lisburn Grandad Laurence McKelvie

Lisburn man Laurence McKelvie had two reasons to be beaming with pride recently when teenager Thomas Evans took to the skies recently as the youngest solo glider in Northern Ireland.

Laurence is not only Thomas’ grandfather, he was also his instructor, helping the fourteen year old to reach new heights in his glider training.

“It must be in the genes,” said Laurence, who is an instructor at the Ulster Gliding Centre in Bellarena, close to Limavady.

“I started gliding when I was 16 but Thomas has gone solo much younger than that.

“There is a complete, start to finish training programme that we have to complete safely.

“I speak from a slightly biased viewpoint but I was very impressed and proud of Thomas’ achievement. He is very talented and has great enthusiasm.”

Since retiring from his Bachelors Walk insurance broker business, LJ McKelvie & Co, over 10 years ago, Laurence McKelvie has had more time to devote to his long term love of gliding.

With over fifty years of involvement with the Ulster Gliding Club and instructing hundreds of students in their goal of learning to fly, last month was particularly special for Laurence when his grandson took to the skies on his own.

Thomas Evans, a student at Banbridge Academy, completed his first solo flight on the north coast at the Ulster Gliding Club, Bellarena on the morning of Friday July 22.

“It is something I always wanted to do,” explained Thomas, who was thrilled to be the youngest glider in Northern Ireland.

“My grandfather was my instructor so it runs in the family.

“Although I have a brother but he isn’t really interested.

“There was a list of things that I needed to do before I could fly solo and I was delighted to complete the list.

“I hope to be up in the air quite often.”

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