Aerial accolade is a tribute to Michael’s blue sky thinking

Michael Muir

Michael Muir - Credit: Archant

Politicians often talk of blue sky thinking, but long-serving Baldock councillor Michael Muir is a real high flier – and he has just received a prestigious accolade from the British Gliding Association.

A county and district councillor on the ground, he has also been a passionate gliding enthusiast for more than 40 years.

His enthusiam for non-powered flight led Michael, of North Road in Baldock, launching an enterprising scheme to teach teenagers to fly the engineless aircraft solo.

The programme – which builds self-confidence and resilience – is the first of its kind in the country, with 30 students as young as 14 receiving ‘flying scholarships’ since 2014.

Michael, who has been a qualified instructor since 1976, provides a steady hand on the joystick for the young flying fans.

“They’re falling over themselves to come, they’re always keen to get up there,” he said.

“It’s amazing how many people say that they’ve heard about this, my nephew or friend of the family has one of your scholarships.”

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A further 12 students are set to begin training this year, after Michael secured £83,000 of funding from charitable bodies – building on an initial grant from Sport England.

Well known across North Herts from his former career as a commercial photographer as well as for his civic service, Michael was previously a civilian gliding instructor at RAF Henlow and RAF Halton near Aylesbury.

He returned to the sport six years ago having taught generations of air cadets the basics of flying.

He is now chairman of Nene Valley Gliding Club and runs the project from a former RAF airfield at Upton, Cambridgeshire, in conjunction with the nearby Ramsey College.

He believes students gain key skills of self-assurance and responsibility through being at the controls as they guide their craft on flights of up to 50km duration.

As well as providing a lifelong pastime, Michael says that glider training also increases employability – two of the students now want to become commercial pilots and one is now working with a leading aviation firm in Cambridge.

The youngsters also learn to drive Land Rovers as part of the scheme, so they can tow cables and recover landed gliders.

Michael’s efforts to bring on the pilots of tomorrow have seen the club grow from 38 to 76 members.

But when he’s not in the cockpit he still remains busy with his council business, which should be enough to keep the intrepid glider’s feet firmly on the ground.