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Sky's the limit! Daring farmer builds own plane for mammoth 7,750-mile solo flight

PUBLISHED: 08:01 08 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:25 08 December 2019

Giles Abrey pictured flying 12,100ft over The Alps on his solo flight from the UK to Cape Town. Picture: GILES ABREY

Giles Abrey pictured flying 12,100ft over The Alps on his solo flight from the UK to Cape Town. Picture: GILES ABREY

Archant

A Suffolk farmer for whom the sky's the limit is within touching distance of finally fulfilling a 12-year dream - by building his own plane and flying 7,750 miles solo to Cape Town.

Giles Abrey in Nairobi with the plane he built to fly more than 7,000 miles across Europe and Africa. Picture: GILES ABREYGiles Abrey in Nairobi with the plane he built to fly more than 7,000 miles across Europe and Africa. Picture: GILES ABREY

Giles Abrey, who runs RG Abrey Farms on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, was so fascinated to read about pilot Alex Henshaw's 1939 record-breaking journey from London to Cape Town and back that he felt inspired to recreate the journey.

So in 2007 he started building his own plane in order to take a five-week break from farm life to complete the mission, raising money for The Institute of Cancer Research in London, Farm Africa and Suffolk children's charity GeeWizz in the process.

After finally building his plane and setting off from Illington, near Thetford, on Sunday, November 3, Mr Abrey has crossed France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

It has not been a journey without its challenges - Mr Abrey's passport was confiscated when he arrived in Sudan, amid claims he had entered the country illegally.

Giles Abrey flying across Lake Turkana in Kenya. Picture: GILES ABREYGiles Abrey flying across Lake Turkana in Kenya. Picture: GILES ABREY

The seasoned pilot managed to get back in the air, although thunderstorms have delayed his arrival in Cape Town - which is now set for Monday, December 9.

However Mr Abrey - who will take a commercial flight for the return leg, so he can get back to his crucial work on the land - has so far raised more than £36,000 for the trio of charities.

His target is to raise £60,000 in total.

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"I'd read a book about Alex Henshaw's solo flight and was absolutely fascinated," Mr Abrey said.

"The test of endurance is one of the things I like most about flying and getting to fly my own plane for five weeks to South Africa, where I got my pilot's licence, sounded like a dream come true.

"Although this has been a solo adventure to remote parts of the world, it's never felt like that. I've had so much support and encouragement both before and during the trip, and I've met so many great people on my journey that I'm still in contact with.

"Everyone has been so interested and enthusiastic in helping me get to Cape Town and raise funds for these three amazing charities.

Hillside Special School in Sudbury wishing Mr Abrey well on his journey. Picture: HILLSIDE SPECIAL SCHOOLHillside Special School in Sudbury wishing Mr Abrey well on his journey. Picture: HILLSIDE SPECIAL SCHOOL

"And thanks go to all the support I have had in the last 12 years to help make this adventure possible and the patience and support of my family that have endured the preparation for many years.

"Landing in Cape Town will be a massive achievement. As incredible as the last five weeks have been, I can't wait to get back and see my family, who I've missed so much over the last five weeks."

Heather Lacey, manager of sports and challenge fundraising at The Institute of Cancer Research, said: "Like so many people, Giles has a very personal motivation for supporting cancer research, and we're so grateful that he's chosen to fundraise for the ICR as he carries out this amazing feat."

Jenni Bright, director of external relations at Farm Africa, added: "We are delighted that Giles has chosen to support fellow farmers by raising funds for Farm Africa. It was great that Giles was able to personally meet some of the farmers benefitting from Farm Africa's support in Ethiopia.

Gina Long, founder of GeeWizz - which will use the funds raised to buy a sensory magic carpet for Hillside Special School in Sudbury - said: "What Giles has achieved on his beyond-mammoth challenge will leave a legacy that's going to be life-changing for so many."

Donate to Mr Abrey's fundraising page here.

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