Torrington girl Ellie Carter's U-2 dream gets off the ground in latest trip to US air base
A ten-year-old girl from Devon who has her eyes on the stars took another step closer to her dream to fly spy planes at the edge of space by taking the pilot's seat in an aircraft for the very first time.
Ellie Carter, from Great Torrington, has won the hearts of flyers at the United States Air Force base at Beale, California, ever since she wrote and asked the world's largest military air show to feature one of their high-flying U-2 planes.
Following a trip to the West Coast last year, she already proudly sports a U-2 solo flight patch on her flight suit, the only one ever given to someone who has not flown the aircraft solo.
Last week, the Monkleigh Primary School pupil swapped her usual student seat with the pilot and took the controls of an Eagle 150, flying out of the base at Yuba City and over the nearby Sutter Buttes mountains.
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"I landed the aircraft for the first time – it was awesome," she told the WMN on her return.
"It is just great fun – I never get scared and just love everything about flying.
"All my friends are really jealous and think I am very lucky."
Ellie's dream might never have got off the ground as her letter to the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in 2012 only gave her name and the fact that she lives in Devon.
But luckily, her mother Lorna spotted the plea from organisers trying to track her down on the RIAT website.
The youngster hit the headlines later in the year when show chiefs at RAF Fairford gave her the opportunity to sit in the chase car travelling at approximately 120mph as it attempted to keep up with a landing U-2 plane.
She so impressed the crew of the U-2 with her knowledge – and her hopes to become the first British foreign exchange U-2 pilot – that they invited her out to fly with them.
And with four years to go until her flying hours in the cockpit begin to count towards her licence, and six years before she is allowed to fly solo, the ambition remains on track.
She already has a dozen certificates from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and genuinely knows here way around the cockpit.
Father Neil Carter, who jetted out and stayed with the family of US pilot John Cabigas, ten miles from the base, along with Lorna, Ellie and her brother Caelin, seven, said his daughter was "obsessed" with flying.
"It is all she wants to do and she has set her heart on becoming a high-altitude U-2 pilot flying in the stratosphere," he added.
"Opportunities don't come along too often like this in a lifetime and it would be brave to try and stop her.
"We are very proud of her – she works very hard and is a very good, accomplished little pilot and I would have full faith in her as a pilot."