Birthday flight was ‘dream come true’ for Ellie, who has been has been learning to fly since she was nine years old

A North Devon schoolgirl made her first solo glider flight on Monday - on her 14th birthday.

It is thought that Ellie Carter, from Torrington, has become the UK's youngest female glider pilot after making the historic flight at North Hill Airfield near Honiton.

It was a dream come true for Ellie, who has been fascinated with aircraft and flight since she can remember, and has been learning to fly since she was nine years old.

The South Molton Community College pupil was able to complete two special six-minute flights after an anxious wait for the right weather conditions, under the watchful eye of the Devon and Somerset Gliding Club.

Ellie Carter, from Torrington, is thought to be the UK’s youngest female solo glider pilot after taking to the skies on her 14th birthday. Picture: ContributedEllie Carter, from Torrington, is thought to be the UK’s youngest female solo glider pilot after taking to the skies on her 14th birthday. Picture: Contributed

Proud dad Neil told the Gazette: "Ellie is beaming from ear-to-ear; she loved it and is chuffed to have been able to make her first solo flight on her birthday - as far as we know, she is the only girl to have done this.

"We'd been on the airfield all day and although it was clear, the winds had been gusting up to about 25 knots - too strong for a solo.

"Fortunately, the wind dropped to below 15 knots and made the flight achievable.

"Ellie had two great flights; we watched her disappear into the distance and it was quite a relief to see this little white dot heading back to the airfield."

South Molton Community College pupil Ellie Carter is thought to be the UK�s youngest female solo glider pilot after taking to the skies on her 14th birthday. Picture: Andy KeebleSouth Molton Community College pupil Ellie Carter is thought to be the UK�s youngest female solo glider pilot after taking to the skies on her 14th birthday. Picture: Andy Keeble

According to the British Gliding Association, around 30 14-year-olds have completed a solo glider flight; and while eight have done so on their birthdays, Ellie is thought to be the first girl.

Ellie made national headlines in 2012 when she wrote to organisers of the Royal International Air Tattoo, held annually at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, to ask if her favourite aircraft - the U-2 spy plane - could feature at the show.

The then nine-year-old Monkleigh Primary School pupil only gave her name, age and Devon as an address, leading to an international 'hunt' which reached the US crew of the spy plane at Beale Air Force Base, in California.

Inspired by Ellie's heart-warming letter, the crew invited her to visit the American air base and fly with them.

She has stayed in touch with crew members, including Major John Cabigas, a U-2 pilot who took former Top Gear presenter James May out of the Earth's atmosphere for a television show in 2012.

Ellie started flying lessons soon after and has now flown 12 different types of aircraft.

Before Monday's birthday flight, Ellie told the Gazette: "I've always been fascinated by the history and science of flying.

"I think if I'd have been born 100 years earlier I'd have been one of the early aviators. I'm interested in the way aircraft work and the physics behind flying.

Young pilot Ellie Carter with dad Neil. Picture: Andy KeebleYoung pilot Ellie Carter with dad Neil. Picture: Andy Keeble

"I love the sensation of flying and I like that everything has to be exactly right. I love every part of it apart from actually stopping.

"I try to glide every week and power fly as much as I can but it's quite expensive."

Dad Neil said Ellie pays for all her own gliding by doing jobs around the house or saving Christmas and birthday money.

He said: "There are two sides to it really; Ellie works hard for her achievements but is able to enjoy the benefit of them.

Ellie Carter, from Torrington, is thought to be the UK’s youngest female solo glider pilot after taking to the skies on her 14th birthday. Picture: ContributedEllie Carter, from Torrington, is thought to be the UK’s youngest female solo glider pilot after taking to the skies on her 14th birthday. Picture: Contributed

"I was nervous the first time she flew but I've not been worried since."

The next step for Ellie is to achieve her bronze and silver gliding licences and go on to become an instructor herself.

She'll have to wait until she turns 16 to be able to solo pilot a powered aeroplane but has lofty ambitions to study aeronautics at university.

"I'd love to be a test pilot or high altitude pilot," she said.

"I like the sound of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and would love to be a test pilot for something like that."