Daredevil pilot receives top aviation award from the Duke of York after he flew to Canada - in a microlight (From This Is Lancashire)
Daredevil pilot receives top aviation award from the Duke of York after he flew to Canada - in a microlight
DAREDEVIL microlight pilot Jon Hilton believes he is lucky to be alive after flying a 5,500-mile round trip from Barton Aerodrome to Canada.
Mr Hilton has received Britain’s most prestigious aviation award — the Britannia Trophy.
He was presented with the honour by the Duke of York.
The 45-year-old law firm director from Harwood flew the tiny 270 kg Samson aircraft with a 100cc petrol engine.
He dodged clouds and massive icebergs and braved temperatures of minus 20 degrees on the 18-day trip.
Mr Hilton has raised £12,000 for The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre on the Wirral and is glad to be back home following his exploits.
Mr HIlton, who is director of Tottington law firm The Legal Brokers Ltd, said: “Thank God it’s over. It was something no sensible human being would do. I was very lucky. Several times I thought I was going to die. I am very lucky to be still here.
“I couldn’t fly through clouds so a lot of the time I was just 30ft above the sea, then there was one time I had to climb to 12,000ft. At 10,000 feet you are supposed to need oxygen, but I managed to carry on.
“I also suffered engine and instrument failure. At one point, when the engine cut out, I consulted the manual of the aircraft and it said it was susceptible to stopping suddenly, which was very worrying.
“It is a plane for flying into little fields in the UK, not for flying over oceans.”
Mr Hilton set off from Salford and flew via Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and round the coast of Greenland, and kept his energy level up by eating hundreds of Mars bars.
He said: “When I set out, I didn’t realise I was the first person to try to fly a microlight to Canada. If I’d known that, I might have thought twice.
“The amount of concentration required to keep the twitchy plane true was so great, I couldn’t lapse, not even for a second.
“It is difficult to calculate the actual the actual distance I flew, because I quite often had to turn back if the weather ahead was too bad, or I had to make detours to avoid clouds.”
The longest leg of the trip was on his first day when he flew 1,000 miles from Barton to Iceland, via Wick in Scotland and the Faroe Islands.
Every day he had to wear a full immersion suit — a protective outfit which protects the wearer from hypothermia if they fall into the sea — because his plane did not have heating.
He added: “I had to wear it, but in the event of an emergency, it wouldn’t really have helped much.
“For a lot of the trip I was completely on my out, out of radio contact and radar range. If I’d crashed into the sea, I’d be a goner.”
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