While many of you might be scared of flying, some people can manipulate an aeroplane with great skill and beauty! Imagine travelling at extremely fast speeds while doing twists, rolls, loops and turns in an agile and lightweight aerobatic aircraft...
Glen Dell was born in Johannesburg, but at an age of four, his family moved to Queenstown, where he grew up on a farm. His passion for flying started when he was very young. Being the son of an airline pilot, he always wanted to be like his father.
“From very young, when my mom and I fetched my dad from the airport, I wanted to become a pilot,” smiles Glen. Although he says he wasn’t the ideal student at school, he was good in English, Art and sport. He played a variety of sports, from rugby and athletics to swimming. This clear enthusiasm for sport is what made Glen fight for his dream and caused him to be where he is today. “I have a passion for anything sport wise,” says Glen.
Glen started flying in 1978, when he was 16 years old and trained with Ted Baines. In 1980, he joined the Air Force, where he officially received “his wings” on 3 December 1981, and flew helicopters for eight years. For six months after leaving the Air Force, he participated in air shows and gave flying lessons, before joining a commercial airline in 1988. “Flying became a passion,” says Glen.
Glen has numerous achievements, with over 30 years of flying experience under his belt. He started doing aerobatics in the 1980s and started competing in 1985. As an experienced aerobatics pilot, Glen won 20 titles at the South African Championships between 1985 and 2005. In 2004, he won the Advanced World Aerobatic Championship title in Sweden, which helped secure his invitation to the Red Bull Air Race training camp and became the first South African to compete in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
One of Glen’s most amazing achievements is the fact that he has totalled 27 000 hours in various types of aircraft, including Boeing 747s, 767s, 737s and Airbus A340s. According to Glen, if you have a passion you will get whatever you dream of achieving: “Passion leads to perseverance. The harder you work, the luckier you get”.
As a unique role model in the world aviation scene, Glen’s advice to all young and upcoming pilots: “You just need to push forward and find an inspiration. Incorporate dedication with passion to get there, almost anyone can achieve anything.”
Glen’s own expectations as a professional career and aerobatic pilot: “My expectations are clearly defined by myself for myself.” “You need to do your own thing and not live up to an image people expect. People respect you for doing your own thing.”
He is also the driving force behind the successful South African designed and developed Slick aerobatic aircraft and hopes to develop a streamlined, lightweight and more powerful model in the near future.
Speaking about aerobatics, competition and display flying: “There’s a huge element of danger in this sport. A mature attitude and safety must be your first priority. Representing Red Bull on the African continent is a huge privilege and signifies my passion for extreme sports.”
Glen has paid his dues in his sport and now he is reaping the rewards.
He says that flying is like music and ballet – you have to see the beauty of it to see the art in it. “The true beauty of flying is the art of it”.