Waiting in wings ... girl with sights on the heavens

WHEN 17-year-old Hannah Crompton took to the sky from a runway in North Yorkshire for her first ever solo flight she was recreating a piece of her family's history.

Her achievement came exactly 66 years to the day after her grandfather John Conway flew by himself for the first time back in 1944.

He went on to fly Halifax bombers for the remainder of the Second World War – and now Hannah is setting her sights on following his example as she works toward her dream job of becoming a Typhoon fighter pilot for the Royal Air Force. She has moved a step closer to this goal by winning a coveted RAF scholarship after beating off competition from more than 2,000 entries to be rated as one of the best candidates in the country.

Just 45 young people were selected for the interview stage and only 15 scholarships were awarded. There was just one applicant rated higher than Hannah by the RAF selection board.

The annual award, worth 1,000, gives her the opportunity to attend a week's leadership and development course at the RAF training centre in Fairbourne, Wales, and the chance to sit rigorous aptitude tests at the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre at RAF Cranwell.

Earning the scholarship is just the latest in a long line of achievements in the life of the Pocklington School pupil.

Like most 17-year-olds Hannah has yet to pass her driving test – but unlike most girls or boys of her age she is now qualified not only to fly solo but also as an instructor.

After gaining her gold wings she is able to take RAF cadets up to teach them different levels of flying – such as pitch and roll and gliding inductions.

She is the Cadet Warrant Officer at Pocklington School where she leads 200 army and RAF cadets and last year she was chosen as the Combined Cadet Force's banner escort at the Royal Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.

Hannah told the Yorkshire Post that it was her grandfather's service in the Second World War which had led her to getting involved as an RAF cadet.

This was brought home to her when she saw a photograph of him during a school visit to a memorial room at RAF Linton on Ouse, near York.

She said: "I saw his photograph by complete chance, I didn't know it was in there. I recognised the name and it really hit home how much my family were involved in the RAF."

Mr Conway died when Hannah was seven but her grandmother Evelyn has always told her stories about her husband during the war.

Hannah said: "That was the inspiration behind my wanting to be a pilot, I've been interested in the RAF for many years. I got involved with the cadets four years ago and my involvement has just grown."

Not only did she fly solo on the same date – some 66 years apart – as her grandfather but her flight took place from RAF Topcliffe, near Thirsk, where he had previously been based.

Her grandfather's first solo flight on April 7, 1944, had been from RAF Defford in Worcestershire, which has since closed.

Hannah is now in the final year of her A-levels where she is studying chemistry, maths and geography at Pocklington.

She has applied to study earth sciences at several universities, including Leeds, and hopes to be able to gain an RAF bursary to help support her progress through higher education.

However her ultimate goal is to become a full-time pilot and her time studying is balanced with her responsibility training cadets to fly.

She said: "Every weekend, Friday night through to Sunday I go away to RAF Topcliffe to train as a flight staff cadet instructor. It is very time-consuming but absolutely fantastic. It is incredible to think that I can fly solo around the North Yorkshire countryside but I can't drive yet."

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