Our Mission

We are Flying Scholarships for Disabled People

Our mission is to inspire disabled adults, building their confidence, self-esteem and future aspirations through the sharing of life changing aviation experiences.

Our History

In 1983, the late Paul Bowen and our Vice Patron Tim Prince, of the Royal International Air Tattoo, set up Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP) as a living memorial to the indomitable spirit of Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader.

After losing both legs in an air accident in 1931, Sir Douglas persisted in his efforts against all odds to resume his flying career with the RAF. He went on to achieve fame in World War II as a fighter pilot and a gifted leader of men, pursuing his talent into a long and successful civilian career in aviation.

Throughout his life he was a dedicated supporter of physically disabled people, to whom he set an outstanding example of courage and perserverance.

Above all, his love of flying is the inspiration behind the Charity. It is this unique experience FSDP aim to share with people whose lives are otherwise blighted by often painful and debilitating physical constraints.



Our scholars have a range of disabilities and illnesses including amputation, paraplegia, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and poliomyelitis. Some are born with their conditions, others have them as the result of an accident or of contracting a disease, or even because they have been the victim of a terrorist bombing.

FSDP have now helped over 400 disabled men and women change their lives, by experiencing the joy of freedom in the air, learning new skills, regaining confidence, and who have “reached for the sky”.



Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that;
that’s nonsense.

Make up your mind you’ll have a go at everything.

Go to school; join in all the games you can.
Go anywhere you want to.

But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult
or impossible.

Group Captain
Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader
CBE, DSO, & Bar, DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL



Our People

Nigel J Samuels – Chairman

Nigel is Chief Executive of the homeless charity Emmaus Hampshire and has been a Trustee of FSDP since 2014.

He was previously Commercial Director of the Navy Army Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) and was responsible for their operations around the world. He has also been a consultant to the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), where he was introduced to the work of FSDP.

Nigel has significant experience in Strategy, Brand Development, Event Management, Public Relations, Facilities Management and HR.

Previous to this Nigel worked in the private sector where he was Sales and Marketing Director of EDF Energy, MD of Seeboard Retail and Commercial Director of PRG.

Oli Delany – Trustee

Oli Delany served 28 years as an Administrative Branch Officer in the RAF leaving in 1998 in the rank of Air Commodore. His appointments included Station Commander of RAF Halton and Air Officer Administration and Air Officer Commanding Directly Administered Units. He was appointed an OBE in 1990.

On leaving the RAF he took up the appointment of Bursar and Secretary to Council, Clifton College. In 2006 took up the position of Director of Central Services at the Bar Council a cross cutting role that involved him in both regulatory and representative functions. Oli is now acting as a leadership and behavioural coach for variety of organisations.

Oli holds an MBA and his Fellowships include Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Personnel Development. He is also a qualified Master Coach, a Master Practitioner of NLP, Time Line Therapy and Hypnotherapy. Oli has over 20 years varied experience of being a charity trustee including the RAF Charitable Trust and Combat Stress.

Currently, in addition to being Treasurer of FSDP, he is trustee of Combat Stress Pension Trust and Chairman of a Bristol homelessness charity 1625 Independent People.

Ben Bennett – Trustee

Ben was appointed as a FSDP Trustee in 2015. He worked for Cobham in the Aerospace industry as a development engineer and an airworthiness engineer for twenty years before taking ill health retirement in 2003. In 1999 he was diagnosed with a very rare progressive neurological condition called Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP) and after discovering the HSP Support Group he gradually got more and more involved and has been chairman since 2010.

He has been very active within the HSP Group and in 2005 registered the group as a charity.

Having been interested in aviation all his life, in 2005 he applied and was awarded an FSDP flying scholarship. He spent an amazing six weeks of flight training in South Africa, and has maintained his flying to this day. Ben has helped FSDP ever since his scholarship by mentoring and more recently being a member of the selection board. Having experienced it himself, he loves spreading the word and making other disabled individuals aware of FSDP and what it has to offer and how it can change lives.

Tony Cann – Trustee

Tony joined the RAF in 1991 after studying Engineering at Cambridge University and flying Bulldogs with the local University Air Squadron.  He counts himself very lucky in his 25 years in the RAF to have flown some wonderful aircraft and worked around the world with some even more wonderful and inspiring people. Still a serving officer, Tony is currently office-bound in the MOD Main Building in London though is digging tunnels back to a cockpit.

Tony joined FSDP initially as an aircraft assessor over 5 years ago to help work out what assistance or modifications our scholars may need in order to fly light aircraft. His brother-in-law Richard had benefited so much from the award of a scholarship and this inspired Tony to get involved with the charity during the selection weeks.

Tony feels very honoured to have been asked to serve as a trustee for FSDP. Having met so many even more wonderful and inspiring scholars and volunteers, all completely committed to changing people’s lives, accepting the role was a simple decision. He will do all he can to continue the great work of all those who have been and continue to be involved in this amazing enterprise.

Fiona Luckhurst – Trustee

Fiona has been flying microlight and light aircraft for more than 35 years and has been teaching people to fly microlight aircraft for nearly the same time.

Her flying school, Shadow Aviation near Salisbury, has provided training for people with physical disabilities on specially modified microlight aircraft since 1993. When the authority existed, she was a Civil Aviation Authority medical flight test examiner.

In the microlight world she is an instructor and examiner of instructors and chairman of the CAA Panel of Examiners. She is also an aircraft inspector for both the British Microlight Aircraft Association and the Light Aircraft Association.

Fiona is delighted to join Flying Scholarships for Disabled People as a Trustee and hopes to help many more disabled people ‘reach for the sky’ by teaching them to fly.

Guy Bowen – Trustee

Guy has worked as a volunteer for the Royal International Air Tattoo from theage of 14, and has grown up alongside FSDP since its inception in 1983. He is the son of their shared co-founder, Paul Bowen. Having been surrounded by aviation from an early age, it was only natural he would go on to pursue it as a career.After working as a flying instructor, Guy went on to work for several different airlines and is now flying for British Airways as a Senior First Officer on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner..

Since his father’s death in 2014, Guy has been keen to support and maintain his fathers legacy, and was honoured to be appointed a trustee for FSDP in 2016. He is also a trustee for British Airways Highflight, a charity funded by its pilots, which provides two scholarships each year, one of which is in honour of his father..

Guy is incredibly proud of FSDP and what it has become. He is keen to see it continue to grow, inspire, and encourage more who might not have thought it possible to take to the air..

David Higham – Trustee and Safeguarding Officer

David is a retired financial accountant and company director and became a Trustee of FSDP in September 2017.

He was previously Financial Director of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises and for a number of years was responsible for Trading and Publications for the commercial company and at the annual Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and ‘RAF in Concert’ Tours.

Previous to this, David has worked in both finance and general management roles for H J Heinz and UK subsidiaries of French and Taiwanese parent companies in both manufacturing and distribution sectors.

David has a wealth of experience in finance, internal audit, general and sales administration, as well as book and catalogue printing and publication. Since retiring in 2013, he has been a RIAT volunteer, overseeing the distribution of the official event souvenir programme, of which he is the current editor.

His keen interest in photography has already been put to good use in support of the annual FSDP Presentation Ceremony. As a Trustee, David hopes to further contribute to this most worthy charitable cause.

David is also our current Safeguarding Officer, please click here to see our policy, and contact FSDP immediately if you wish to discuss any safeguarding matters.

Rachel Greenwood – Trustee

Rachel first came across FSDP when her late partner, Richard, received a life changing scholarship and learned to fly at Goodwood. Somehow along the cancer treadmill he had become defined by his sarcoma, his amputation, his disability and ultimately by the palliative management of his condition. When he phoned, just bursting with pride & excitement, after his first solo flight Rachel knew that this challenge & amazing opportunity had brought the ‘real him’ back. She credits the scholarship as having changing the lives of all around Richard..

She joined FSDP in 2010 as part of the medical team. A physiotherapist, with 30 years experience specialising in neurological & complex disabilities, she currently works full time in a hospice for children, teenagers & young adults. .

She is delighted to accept a role as trustee and is committed to supporting others to change their lives and outlook. .

Ian Revell – Trustee

Ian was appointed as an FSDP trustee in May 2019. He has over 30 years’ experience as an Air Traffic Controller and is currently a Watch Manager, working for NATS at Manchester Airport. He has also managed the volunteer Air Traffic Control team at RIAT, having close links with FSDP for many years..

Ian also works with the Royal Air Force Air Cadets as a Wing Commander, delivering Aerospace training through the Qualified Aerospace Instructors Course. He was recently awarded the Scott-Farnie Medal by the Air League for his voluntary work with the Air Cadets and made a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society for his contribution to aviation overall. .

A keen Private Pilot, Ian is looking forward to the challenges of working with the charity and furthering its aims to challenge and inspire scholars. .

Rebecca Giddings – Trustee

Rebecca was appointed as an FSDP trustee in May 2019. Until June 2014 Rebecca worked for various banking institutions including, GE, Aegon, RBS, AON and Close Brothers. Throughout a 15-year career she worked her way up through the compliance and risk departments, specialising in implementing regulatory change and translating regulation into business needs. This ultimately saw her take on a Head of Compliance role. She is also completing a PhD in Ethics in Financial Services. .

In June 2014 after routine holiday vaccination, Rebecca suffered an unexpected autoimmune response and was subsequently diagnosed with a rare heart conditions, Prinzmetals Angina. After a period of extreme illness and doctors not being able to work out what was wrong, in 2016 Rebecca was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, PoTS, MCAD, autonomic dysfunction and Gastroparesis. This manifest itself in a variety of ways including, frequent joint dislocations, angina, vascular issues, allergic reactions, and stomach paralysis which means she is unable to eat and is fed through a tube in her abdomen. .

In 2017 Rebecca was awarded an FSDP flying scholarship and spent an incredible 4 weeks of microlight training in Salisbury. Since then Rebecca has enjoyed raising awareness and funds for FSDP and in 2018 raised £27,000 from grant applications. .

Lieutenant General His Royal Highness Prince Feisal bin Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – Patron

Prince Feisal served in various positions in the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) and is currently Deputy Supreme Commander of the Jordanian Armed Forces.

Having received helicopter training, he gained his RJAF wings 1985 and went on to undergo officer training with the Royal Air Force at Cranwell. Continuing at Cranwell, he did his RAF basic flying training before moving to RAF Valley where he completed advanced flying training on jets; receiving his RAF wings in 1987 Prince Faial became our patron in 1999 following the death of his father King Hussein who had previously held the title.

He attends our presentation ceremony at the Royal International Air Tattoo each year, awarding our scholars with their certificates and wings.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton GCB ADC LLD BSc FRAes CCMI RAF – Vice Patron

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton retired as Chief of the Air Staff and Air Aide-de-Camp to Queen Elizabeth II in 2013.

He joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot in 1976 and flew the Jaguar aircraft on three tours in both ground and tactical reconnaissance before moving on to fly the tornado. He was promoted to Air Chief Marshal and appointed Chief of the Air Staff in July 2009.

As Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Stephen awarded our scholars with their certificates and wings, alongside Prince Faisal of Jordan, at our presentation ceremony at the Royal International Air Tattoo.   

He joined FSDP as a Vice Patron in 2012 and regularly attends the Slection Board at RAF Cranwell.

Tim Prince OBE FRAeS – Vice Patron

Tim, who was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2009, was one of the founder members of the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), the world’s largest military air show, where he was Chief Executive until 2014. He had previously worked for the CAA as an Air Traffic Controller and had been part of the team that staged the first Air Tattoo, at North Weald Airfield in 1971.

He was a founder member and Trustee of FSDP, which was established by the Air Tattoo team in 1983 in memory of Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader who had been its President since 1976 until his passing in 1982.

In addition to being an aviation and event consultant, Tim is Honorary Vice Patron of RIAT and is a Vice Patron of FSDP.

Polly Vacher MBE – Vice Patron

Polly is an aviator specialising in long-distance solo flights, having obtained her private pilot license in Australia in 1994. She was awarded the MBE in 2002 for her services to charity, and has generated over £500,000 for FSDP.

In 2001, as the first stage of her Wings Around the World Challenge in aid of our charity, she made a solo circumnavigation of the world in her single-engine Piper PA-28 Cherokee Dakota. This is the smallest aircraft flown solo by a woman around the world via Australia.

She continued the challenge in May 2003 with Voyage to the Ice, flying over the North Pole, Antarctica and all seven continents, returning in April 2004. She became the first woman flying solo over the polar regions.

On 21 May 2007 she further continued the challenge by landing in all 221 airfields in the Jeppesen VFR Manual, returning on 31 July having flown 35,000 km in 158 hours, with 96 disabled passengers flown during legs of the flight.   

Polly was appointed as a Vice Patron of FSDP in 2015.

Keith Bayliss – Vice President

Keith joined the Royal Navy in 1977, and spent 12 years as a pilot, flying Gazelle, Sea King, Wessex and Lynx helicopters. During that time he spent time as a Qualified Helicopter Instructor and an Instrument Rating Instructor/Examiner. He also spent a period as a Flag Lieutenant (ADC).

Taking a “break point” in his Commission, he left the Royal Navy in 1989, and since then has been employed by British Airways. Currently he is a Boeing 777 Captain, flying worldwide routes, and has also flown the BAC 1-11, Boeing 747, Boeing 757 and Boeing 767. He was part of a small group of pilots who set up a charity, Highflight, within British Airways, with the aim of providing funds for FSDP.

Retiring as Chairman and  Trustee in 2017, Keith was immediately appointed as a Vice President.


Air Vice-Marshal Ross Paterson CB OBE ADC DL BSc PGCE FCIPD RAF – Vice President

Ross Paterson joined the RAF in 1983 and spent 32 very happy years involved in a wide variety of personnel support work and command positions – including engineering and officer training, defence policy roles in Whitehall and latterly as Chief Executive of a Government Agency handling £15Bn pa of personnel costs and compensation. He also delivered UK Veterans welfare, the award of 150K medals pa, and all compassionate handling for the UK forces worldwide, including operational casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was invited to join the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit in the Cabinet Office, advising on strategic leadership and training.

On retirement in 2015, he became Air Officer Scotland as a part-time Reservist, acting as the RAF’s senior representative. As part of this, he helped launch a flying experience scheme for disabled and disavantaged youngsters and in 2019 fully accessible mobile flight simulators for use across Scotland.

Ross is married to Helen (a civilian Doctor) and has 2 sons, both now also working as junior doctors. With a family home on the Fife coast, his interests include renovating his home and its gardens, rural life, hill walking (ex-RAF Mountain Rescue) and training his working dogs (not doctors).

Having seen FSDP at Fairford over the years but now happily free to offer some help, Ross was honoured to be invited to join FSDP in 2019. Ross is also on the Board of a disabled children’s charity in Scotland and both he and Helen are delighted to be able to support FSDP in whatever way they can do and to help increase FSDP’s footprint and presence in Scotland.

Susie Dunbar – Vice President

Following a career in motor sport, including five years with the McLaren Formula One team, Susie’s involvement with aviation was a natural progression.

Having gained her pilots licence in 1992, Susie joined the British Women Pilots’ Association where she met Polly Vacher (now FSDP Vice Patron).  This led to her working with Polly to support her Wings around the World Challenge, raising funds for FSDP and heightening awareness throughout the world that the less able can become pilots.

Susie was a Trustee between 2001 and 2015 and had a special interest in the scholars’ welfare post training, as well as during their flying course. On her retirement as a Trustee Susie was appointed as our first FSDP Vice President.

Tricia Nelmes – Vice President

Tricia is a retired family law solicitor and has been a PPL flying instructor for over thirty years. She became a FSDP Trustee in 2009 when, as Chairman of the British Women Pilots’ Association, they chose this charity to support for their 50th birthday celebrations.

Tricia is also a trustee of the General Aviation Safety Council, and is a Liveryman and Assistant to the Court of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots and chairs the Company’s Scholarship committee.

As a FSDP Trustee, Tricia was responsible for advising on the selection of Flying Schools and regularly visited scholars during their training.   

Retiring as a Trustee in 2016, Tricia was immediately appointed as a Vice President.

John Griffin – Vice President

John spent 25 years in the RAF as an aircraft engineer, during which time he took up gliding as a sport; eventually becoming an instructor.  He then went on to gain both his light aircraft and helicopter pilot licences and become a general aviation flying instructor in 1978 and a flight examiner in 1998.  He has completed over 3,500 hours of flight instruction.  He is now CFI of Gryphon Aero Club.

He became involved with FSDP eight years ago initially as an instructor and then as a member of the Selection Board. He was appointed as a Vice President of the charity in 2016.

Mel White – Vice President

Mel has worked in Aerospace throughout his career; he is a Fellow of the RAeS and was a qualified company pilot for 15 years, before ending his full-time career with Honeywell in 2019.

When Polly Vacher (now FSDP Vice Patron) needed avionics support for her Wings around the World challenge in 2001, she turned to Bendix/King in Europe, which at that time was managed by Mel.  Following Polly’s inspirational journey, he decided to provide business sponsorship for scholarships through the Skyforce business.

Since the initial work with FSDP in 2001, Mel has focused on helping with candidate selection, and flying course follow-up once they became scholars.  He became a Vice President in 2019 to help improve focus on corporate sponsorship.

Lou Buckley – General Manager

Lou is new to the FSDP family, joining in early 2020. She is the charity’s General Manager and its sole employee. She also acts as Secretary to the Trustees.   

She comes from the Events Management and hospitality industry, and is very keen to learn all she can about aviation, and can’t wait to work with the scholars towards achieving their goals.

Lou is responsible for the day-to-day running of the charity including managing the application, selection and scholarship processes, arranging the annual Presentation Ceremony and visiting the scholars during their training.  She also manages the marketing and PR of the charity including our presence on social media.

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