A TEENAGER from Henley is attempting a 2,000-mile flight around the UK to raise money for charity.
Hugh Barklem, 17, is flying his father’s Robinson R44 helicopter around the coastline this week — just seven months after he became the country’s youngest qualified pilot.
He is raising money for Arrive Alive UK, which aims to build helipads on the roofs of children’s hospitals for air ambulances to use.
In 2010, Hugh missed a year of school when he was treated for swine flu, glandular fever and chronic fatigue.
While in hospital, he saw a documentary about Jennifer Murray’s 1997 flight around the world and felt compelled to take on a similar challenge.
He said: “I was watching the documentary and decided I had to do some sort of adventure. I asked my mum if I could go round the world and she wasn’t too happy, so we came to a compromise that I would go round Britain instead.
“This is just to kick off my adventures. I definitely want to go round the world at some point, maybe next year or the year after. I’m hoping to break the age record for that.”
Hugh lives in Lambridge Lane with his parents, Nigel, 54, and Emma, 50, and has three brothers, Max, 14, Dom, 22, and Charlie, 24.
He set off from Denham Aerodrome in Surrey on Tuesday and is aiming to fly 1,700 nautical miles, or 1,956 miles, through the North-East, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Wight before landing back at Denham today (Friday). He is flying for up to nine hours but stops regularly to refuel.
He said: “It took quite a bit of organising, planning the route and where we were going to stop.
“The weather is a big challenge, especially in Scotland and it’s quite emotionally tiring to fly, especially four days in a row.”
The teenager fell in love with helicopters when at aged three when a millionaire friend of his father landed one on the lawn of their house.
He first took the controls two years later and was taught to fly at HQ Aviation in Denham by world freestyle champion pilot Quentin Smith.
Hugh flew solo for the first time when he was 16 and he hopes to train for his commercial pilot’s licence this year.
He said: “The second I turned 17 I knew I needed to get my licence. My brothers don’t want to learn but they love going for a ride. I take my oldest brother and his girlfriend up all the time.
“I’m planning on going to the States and doing my American commercial licence over there. Then I can do teaching and pleasure flights. I’d also like to fly in Australia one day.”
Hugh’s father is chairman of London-based Henley Media Group, while his mother has helped set up Beech Lodge, a specialist school in Hurley.
Mrs Barklem said: “He can start off with this and if he wants to do another challenge we’ll see. I’m hugely proud of him but I do get very nervous.
“I’ve been told he has an instinctive feel for flying. They say that flying gets in your blood and I know it’s what he wants to do so I fully support it.”
To sponsor Hugh, visit www.heli hugh.com or www.arrivealiveappeal.org