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.
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 scholare 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.
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
Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader
CBE, DSO, & Bar, DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL
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.
Andrew Smart – Trustee
Andrew joined FSDP in 2016, after having worked at the Royal International AirTattoo as Volunteer Manager of the Vintage Village for 4 years. He is an independent Business Consultant and Advisor, with a background in Retail and Supply Chain.
Andrew brings a wealth of experience in strategic marketing, communications & PR, as well as many years of working in business improvement. As Marketing Director at NAAFI, he was responsible for a major turnaround in both customer and staff engagement, as well as delivery of it’s 90th year birthday celebrations, culminating in achieving an industry award for best PR strategy.
Andrew is a keen supporter of a number of charities, in particular Mind. He is delighted to be a Trustee for FSDP, where he feels he will be able to help make a difference for disabled people, enabling them to “reach for the sky”.
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.
David Higham – Trustee
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.
Lieutenant General His Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – Patron
Prince Faisal 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.
Bruce Dickinson – Vice Patron
Bruce is a musician, author and broadcaster, most famous as the lead singer of heavy metal band Iron Maiden; he is renowned for his wide-ranging operatic vocal style and energetic stage presence!
Outside his career in music, Bruce has been a commercial pilot for Astraeus Airlines, leading on to a number of media-reported ventures including captaining Iron Maiden’s converted charter aeroplane, Ed Force One, during their world tours. In 2012 he formed Cardiff Aviation, his own aircraft maintenance and pilot training company.
Bruce was appointed Vice Patron of FSDP in 2012 and regularly attends our annual Presentation Ceremony at the Royal International Air Tattoo as well as joining us for the selection process 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.
Keith Bayliss – Chairman
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.
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.
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.
Julie Bull – General Manager
Julie joined FSDP in 2012. She is the charity’s General Manager and its sole employee. She also acts as Secretary to the Trustees.
She has a strong background in aviation having worked for the Royal International Air Tattoo for fourteen years in both marketing and operational roles. She has recently learnt to fly a light aircraft so she has empathy with the scholars.
Julie 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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