HIGH flying pilots are returning to the skies above North Yorkshire but only for solo flights with no passengers allowed.

Glider pilots are starting flights again in the skies above Sutton Bank, near Thirsk, following the easing of lockdown restrictions by the Government.

Yorkshire gliding club, which is based opposite the North York Moors National Park Centre at Sutton Bank closed eight weeks ago, just prior to the official lockdown announcement was made, along with all other gliding centres in the UK.

The closure came at a time when most club members would normally be resuming flying at the beginning of spring with the weather between March and September offering the best opportunities for long durations and cross-country distance flights.

The North Yorkshire club has become increasingly popular in recent years with an onsite cafe open to the public and offering fabulous views from the Moors across the Vale of Mowbray to the Yorkshire Dales.

Organisers at the club say unfortunately they cannot reopen the site but have been able to resume flying. Neighbouring airports at Teesside and Leeds Bradford Airport remain closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Club chairman Dave Latimer said as with other sports clubs they have had to put in place special restrcitions to enable them to carry on flying safely to make sure they minimise any risks of transmitting the virus.

Amongst the changes made are the clubs fleet of two-seat gliders, normally used for air experience flights and pilot training can only be flown by single occupants or two people from the same household. The club is only partially re-opening for experienced solo pilots who can carry out local flying whilst adhering to social distancing rules.

Mr Latimer said while the airfield can gradually begin operations the club has taken the step of keeping the buildings closed for the forseeable future and are asking the public not to visit the site with the cafe closed for the time being.

He added: "The return of sporting activities will be a boost to participants who have been unable to do what they love for so long.

"For many pilots across the country this will be a return to flying after not just eight weeks but a long winter and that is why we at Sutton Bank have made plans for our club to reopen gradually, so that we can ensure that our club is operating safely both from a COVID-19 and flying skills perspective.

"We would like to thank members of the public for not visiting, and continuing not to visit our airfield whilst restrictions are in place and we would especially like to thank those who have continued to support us by purchasing air experience flight vouchers through our website.

"Whilst we can't fly people in our two-seat aircraft yet, we look forward to a time when we can and we will ensure that we honour each and every voucher when the time is right."