Posted 14th February by Peter Byrne
The woman who took part in a solo 7000km journey by paramotor to mirror the flight of the endangered Bewick's swans' migratory route has won the coveted Britannia Trophy
Sacha Dench began paramotoring after joining the Wildfowl & Wetland’s Trust (WWT) in 2009, following a terrifying plane flight through a severe thunderstorm in Panama had left her with a fear of flying.
However, surrounded by birds in flight at WWT's headquarters in Gloucestershire, Sacha vowed to beat her phobia, subsequently throwing herself into her new hobby. She eventually gained the confidence to fly from the swans' breeding ground in Arctic Russia to their wintering site at Slimbridge Wetland Centre to raise awareness to the bird's decline.
No woman as an individual has won the Royal Aero Club's Britannia trophy for a commendable aerial performance since 1967, and Sacha stands as the first woman to paramotor solo the English Channel.
Sacha said: "I’m still in shock! I only started paramotoring to cure my fear of flying after a plane I was travelling on in Panama flew into a storm and couldn’t land. I thought it was curtains until the pilot thankfully found a clearing."
"As I work on the conservation of migratory birds at WWT every day, I knew I had to overcome this fear and it turns out paramotoring was the remedy I needed. I never imagined I would one day have the confidence to fly alongside them on the very route our endangered Bewick’s swans battle each year, even less that I’d happily take on the harsh, challenging and turbulent conditions of their autumn migration."
"It is such an honour to be selected for this award. The campaign was a tremendous achievement for everyone involved. I had a brilliant team behind me and I share this trophy with all of them."
Marc Asquith, Chairman of the BHPS and Vice President of the Royal Aero Club, said: "As an effective tool for publicity to raise the profile of the Bewick’s swan, and to reveal mankind’s unwitting damage to the basis of their existence, it is unparalleled. And as a demonstration of sheer determination, flying solo on a tiny machine from above the Arctic Circle to the relative warmth of southern Britain, this odyssey has few equals."
Photo courtesy of Angharad Barlow