ATA girl Ann Welch


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ATA girl Ann Welch

Ann Welch at the NHGA championship, Steyning, Sussex, in 1974
Ann Welch at the NHGA championship, Steyning, Sussex, in 1974 (screenshot from the British Movietone clip linked later on this page)
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, in 1976

The photographer of this early Miles Wings Gryphon (see Miles Wings Gryphon in Hang gliding 1976 part 1) 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 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)

Ann took her first flight in the summer of 1932, while still a schoolgirl, in Alan Cobham’s Airspeed Ferry(*). The Ferry was designed by Nevil Shute Norway, who was better known as the novelist Nevil Shute (Requiem for a Wren).

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 an early British-made hang glider; a standard Rogallo with no upper rigging, built by Geoff McBroom. (*)

I (the original author of this history) 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 held at Boscombe Down airfield concerning flight testing of light sport aircraft.

External links

The video clips here each show Ann for just a few seconds. In the 1975 clip, we only hear her speaking over a radio.

Ann Welch Wikipedia entry

Ann Welch in 1995 at Ager, northern Spain: MUNDIAL DE ALA DELTA AGER 95 video or digitized film by Pere Toro on YouTube starting at 3 minutes 19 seconds

Continuation of the preceding interview at 11 minutes 10 seconds

HANG GLIDING – COLOUR digitized film by British Movietone, 1974, on YouTube. Ann appears at 1 minute 43 seconds.

Voice over radio of Ann Welch in 1975 communicating with the U.S.A. team at Kössen, Austria: Hanggliding Worldcup 1975 (Drachenflug WM 75 Kössen in Tirol) digitized film ‘Free as a Bird’ by Julian Grant on YouTube starting at 28 minutes 55 seconds (narration in German)

Reference

Profile of Ann Welch by Jane White in BHGA magazine Wings, January 1987