ATA girl Ann Welch


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ATA girl Ann Welch

Art based on a photo by Ann Welch of Graham Leason landing an early Gryphon at Kössen, Austria

Art based on a photo by Ann Welch of Graham Leason landing an early Gryphon at Kössen, Austria

Ann Welch OBE, president of the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, in 1975

Ann Welch OBE, president of the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, in 1975 (no larger image available)

The photographer of this early Miles Wings Gryphon (see Hang gliding 1976 part 2) was Ann Welch, president of the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, to which she brought her wealth of administrative experience from the world of conventional gliding (sailplanes).

Ann took her first flight in the summer of 1932, while still a schoolgirl, in Alan Cobham’s Airspeed Ferry. (Source: Profile of Ann Welch by Jane White in Wings, January 1987.) It is possible my father went up in the same aircraft: He flew as a passenger with Alan Cobham, the in-flight refueling pioneer. The Ferry was designed by Nevil Shute Norway, who was better known as the novelist Nevil Shute. (I review his most famous novel, Requiem for a Wren, here.)

During World War 2, Ann flew for the Air Transport Auxiliary, conveying airplanes from factory airfields to operational units in all kinds of weather. Those ‘Spitfire women’, some of whom also flew multi-engine heavy bombers and the first fighter jets, comprised about a fifth of the pilots in the ATA.

Airspeed Ferry

Airspeed Ferry (no larger image available)

She was a world-class glider pilot for many years after the war, and exuded an uncompromising, special forces-style rigour in everything she did.

— Giles Whittell, Spitfire Women of World War II, 2007

In 1972, Ann flew the first hang glider to be made in Britain; a standard Rogallo with no upper rigging built by Geoff McBroom. (Source: Jane White, Wings, January 1987.)

I first saw Ann on December 8th, 1974, when she guided a meeting in Coventry that merged two UK hang gliding associations to become the BHGA (later BHPA). I last saw her in about 1998 at a convention concerning flight testing of light sport aircraft.

External link

Ann Welch Wikipedia entry