Recipient of FAI’s top award, the Gold Air Medal, Mrs Ann Welch (United Kingdom) has died at the age of 85. She was a pilot with a lifelong enthusiasm and love for flying. The FAI remembers Ann Welch for her enormous contributions to the development, under the umbrella of the FAI, of no less than four sports - Gliding, Hang Gliding, Paragliding and Microlight Flying.
A Dream that Came Alive
“Once, a long time ago, I knew that all I ever wanted was to fly, to just float around in the cool sky, playing with the clouds, looking at the land and sea below, toy-like and beautiful.”
The words Ann Welch used to open her 1983 autobiography (“Happy to Fly”) are a perfect illustration of the dream and motivation that accompanied her long life as a pilot. Already as a child, Ann Welch kept a diary listing every aeroplane that flew over the house. Later, after she had acquired a motorbike to visit the local aerodrome, her dream came true, and in 1934 she obtained her pilot’s license at the age of seventeen.
Second World War
She started gliding in 1937, but soon the 2nd World War broke out. Enrolled in the Air Transport Auxiliary, Ann Welch greatly expanded her flying experience by ferrying all kinds of new aeroplanes - Spitfires, Hurricanes, Blenheims and Wellingtons - from the factories to operational units. After that difficult period, she concentrated on gliding and on the training of pilots and instructors.
A Life Dedicated to Air Sports
Ann Welch contributed greatly to the early development of gliding in Great Britain. For 20 years, she was in charge of the British Gliding Association Examining Panel. As Manager of the British Gliding Team, she accompanied the team to many international competitions and organized World Gliding Championships in Great Britain in 1965. Later, she was elected as delegate to the FAI International Gliding Commission and acted as jury member at several World Gliding Championships. Always alert to new opportunities for young people and those on tight budgets to take to the air, she closely followed the development of the new flying technologies, and was founder President of both the FAI Hang Gliding and Paragliding Commission (CIVL, 1976) and the FAI Microlight Commission (CIMA, 1982). On leaving elected office, she was appointed President of Honour of both these Commissions. Her publications – training manuals, guides to contest organisation, sporting codes, as well as narrative accounts of her experiences – are widely admired.
“I liked the FAI because it was a great and civilised gathering of enthusiasts, people from all over the world working together for the sort of flying we loved”. As she wrote in her autobiography, Ann Welch was highly motivated for FAI : for many years, she was also UK's delegate to the FAI Gliding Commission, member of the FAI Council for UK and editor of the FAI Bulletin. Ann Welch was awarded the FAI Bronze Medal (1969), the Lilienthal Medal (1973) and the FAI Gold Air Medal (1980) in recognition of her devotion to the training and encouragement of young pilots (see FAI Awards).
FAI deeply regrets the lost of a real enthusiast for Air Sports and hopes that Ann Welch will remain an inspiration to present and future generations of those who love to fly.
Lausanne, 11 December 2002