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Swan flier wins noted aviation award

Sacha Dench is the first woman to win The Britannia Trophy in 50 years. Credit: Angharad Barlow

Gloucestershire conservationist Sacha Dench has been awarded The Britannia Trophy by the Royal Aero Club for her epic Flight of the Swan expedition. She is the first woman to win the award in 50 years.

Sacha - who works with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge - has been recognised for her long-distance paramotor flight following the migration of endangered Bewick’s swans.

The Royal Aero Club honour, previously awarded to the likes of Concorde’s first supersonic flight, Sir Richard Branson and the Red Arrows, has not been received by a woman since 1967.

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Sacha was nominated for the award by the British Hang gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA) for the ground-breaking ‘Flight of the Swans’ expedition, during which she flew 7,000km from the Russian arctic to the UK on a paramotor. During the adventure – spanning 11 different countries – she also became the first woman ever to cross the English Channel by paramotor.

Sacha Dent flew thousands of miles following migrating Bewick's swans. Credit: ITV News West Country

I was speechless when I was told I had won the Britannia Trophy. It’s an amazing accolade, particularly as it has been so long since it was awarded to a woman, and for a project that many said was impossible.

I learned a lot about the Bewick’s swans on my journey, and have developed a huge respect for them as aviators. That I’m receiving this award, for doing what each swan does at just 12 weeks old twice a year for their entire life, is testament to the complexity and hardship they must endure just to survive that journey, particularly in stormy autumn weather with the arctic winter on their tails.

– Sacha Dent, Conservationist

Sacha will be presented with the award by The Duke of York at the Royal Aero Club awards ceremony on 17 May in London.

We are so happy to be awarding this trophy to a truly remarkable woman. Paramotoring needs a lot nerve at the best of times and to conceive of a journey across such inhospitable terrain with huge logistical challenges - and then pull it off - is an amazing achievement.

Sacha has provided immense inspiration to others and we are very proud to count her amongst these great aviators and the ‘Flight of the Swans’ project amongst great aviation achievements.

– Dave Phipps, Royal Aero Club General Secretary