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‘Human swan’ is first woman to receive prestigious aviation award in 50 years ... WWT’s Sacha Dench received the Britannia Trophy in London on 17th May
22 May 2018

Sacha Dench WWT Flight of the Swans - credit Angharad Barlow
Sacha Dench WWT Flight of the Swans - credit: Angharad Barlow

Conservationist Sacha Dench has been awarded the Britannia Trophy – one of the most prestigious honours in aviation – in recognition of her long-distance paramotor flight following the migration of endangered Bewick’s swans.

Bewick's Swans - credit: WWT
Bewick's Swans - credit: WWT

This Royal Aero Club accolade, 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.

Sacha Dench with with Prince Andrew, Duke of York
Sacha Dench with with Prince Andrew, Duke of York + (left to right) Jocky Sanderson, Peggy Williams, Paolo Bellezze,
Carolyn Gardner, Mark Simpson, Jacek Karczewski, Stuart Savage, Steve Holland, Brian Middleton & Peter Cranswick**

Sacha was awarded the trophy 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 Dench with astronaut Tim Peake and ...
Sacha Dench with with astronaut Tim Peake + Jocky Sanderson, Mark Simpson & Carolyn Gardner

Sacha, a WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) Conservationist, said:.

“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.

“A lot of women helped, but I’m also grateful to those few men that believed a woman could do this and stuck their neck out to back me.

Sacha Dench with with ...
Sacha Dench with Brian Middleton & Jacek Karczewski

“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.

“I am delighted that Flight of the Swans has touched so many people and helped the Bewick’s swans’ plight make mainstream news. We now have many people and organisations galvanised to help across a mass of countries.

“I am also more touched that fellow aviators have recognised this feat by awarding me the Britannia trophy, an award that will be invaluable in setting up future expeditions for conservation.”

Sacha Dench with with Prince Andrew, Duke of York
Sacha Dench talking with with Prince Andrew, Duke of York

Dave Phipps, RAeC General Secretary, said:

“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. And of course, it is all enhanced by Sacha’s ability to communicate a great cause and enthuse young and old alike in the UK and around the world. She 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.”

Sacha Dench with with Prince Andrew, Duke of York
Sacha Dench was presented the trophy by Prince Andrew, Duke of York

Sacha was presented with the award by HRH The Duke of York at the Royal Aero Club awards ceremony on May 17th in Piccadilly, London.

Sacha Dench, A.K.A. ‘Human swan’, is first woman to receive prestigious aviation award in 50 years

Introducing Flight of the Swans

Visit: flightoftheswans.org & twitter.com/WWTSwanFlight & facebook.com/flightoftheswans

Bewick's flyby.

Majestic Bewick's flyby. You can witness Bewick's first hand at some of our WWT sites like WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre and WWT Welney before they head back to Russia to breed.

Posted by Flight Of The Swans on Tuesday, 24 January 2017


Background on Sacha Dench and 'Flight of the Swans': Sacha is a biologist, conservationist, and motivational speaker. She holds records for freediving, and recently won Woman of the Year 2017, Environment Campaign of the Year 2017 and British Women Pilots Association Trophy 2017. (sachadench.com/speaker-biograph)

The 'Flight of the Swans' expedition saw Sacha undertake a 7,000 km paramotor journey across 11 countries following the long and wandering migration route of Bewick’s swans heading south west for winter from the Russian Arctic to the UK. The flight was made to raise awareness of the Bewick’s swan which is under threat: to identify more clearly what the threats are and to educate and inform communities along the migration route through face-to-face meetings, competitions, media and social media. The expedition has won Sacha and her team at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust several awards for aviation, conservation and communication.

Jocky Sanderson - trainer in handling your wing in a crisis, and boat support for channel crossing
Peggy Williams - paragliding friend and moral support
Paolo Bellezze- weather and logistics support
Carolyn Gardner - expedition meteorologist
Mark Simpson - expedition PR and communications
Jacek Karczewski - Polish Conservation partner for the expedition (there was a partner conservation organisation in each of the 11 countries)
Stuart Savage - expedition pilot and logistics- Europe
Steve Holland - expert in expedition volunteer recruitment (recruits volunteers for Sir Ranulph Fiennes and volunteered his services for Flight of the Swans)
Brian Middleton - expedition Engineer and mechanic
Peter Cranswick - WWT Project Manager

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