What is it?

The aim of a scholarship is to both challenge and inspire; building up confidence, self-esteem and future aspirations. It is truly a life changing experience.

There is no specified target or standard of achievement; what is accomplished will depend on an individual’s flying ability and any limitations arising from a particular disability, whether physical, mental or fatigue related. The number of scholarships, and their type, will vary each year, as they are dependent on the generosity of our sponsors and donors. The costs of flying training, ground school, accommodation and food are all covered, however scholars are responsible for their own travel costs and it is essential that they have their own vehicle to get to and from the flying school.

Scholarships commence with a scholar’s seminar near the end of May, during which scholars are introduced to their instructors and scholar training partner(s).

Flying training is undertaken at flying schools in the UK between May and October, and will be of three or four-weeks duration. Training includes up to 25 hours flying tuition in either a PA-28 or a Microlight aircraft and associated ground school.

FSDP scholars currently undertake their flying training in the UK at Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport, Kemble, Bristol Aero Club  at Gloucestershire Airport,Turweston Flying Club at Turweston Aerodrome or Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum.  In all cases accommodation is provided near to the Flying School. Scholars usually go in groups of two or three, so it is important to emphasise that the ability and willingness to interact with people who they may have only met briefly during the selection process is vital.

Scholars are presented with a scholarship certificate at a special ceremony at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in the July of the year they are awarded their scholarship, and will be invited back to RIAT the following year to be awarded their ‘pilot’s wings’. Both of these events form part of our scholarship; diary dates for 2017/18 are Sunday 16 July 2017 and Sunday 15 July 2018.

The scholarship does not end with learning to fly. Scholars will become part of the FSDP family and will be invited to our family events including the annual Presentation Ceremony. We have an active Facebook community and scholars are encouraged to become part of it.

Become a Scholar

You can apply for a FSDP scholarship if you are:

  • Between 18 and 70 years of age
  • Weigh 115 kgs or below (230 lbs)
  • Registered disabled
  • Resident in the UK
  • Allowed to drive by the DVLA

Our selection process is designed to ensure that we offer scholarships to those disabled people who will have the greatest life changing experience.

There are 4 stages to our selection process:

  • Application

    Applications from prospective candidates are invited up until
    30 November, for a scholarship the following year. Applicants are required to explain how they would benefit from a scholarship.

  • Pre-selection

    Applications are assessed at our pre-selection meeting in February, by our experienced team, consisting of FSDP Trustees, our medical team and our flying instructors. This determines which applicants are invited as candidates to the next stage at RAF Cranwell in March.

  • Cranwell Selection Centre

    Over three days, candidates will participate in two interviews, undergo a medical to ensure they will be fit enough to fly, have a chance to climb in and out of an aircraft similar to that they might get to fly in, and also get to meet our flying instructors. Candidates are encouraged to ask questions at every stage, and our scholar mentors are there to help them along the way. The selection centre is held at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

  • The Decision

    Shortly after Cranwell selection, successful candidates are advised if they have been awarded a scholarship by the Selection Board. Successful candidates will also be advised of their training partner and nominated flying school.

We’ve found that whether a candidate is successful or not in being awarded a scholarship they gain an awful lot through the process, and continue to stay in contact with FSDP and new friends made through Cranwell. This is something we actively encourage through our regular family days throughout the year, as well as staying in contact through our Facebook page.

Meet Our Scholars

Tracey Aggett

Sponsored by ACT Foundation and training with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Tracey was fit and healthy with a positive outlook on life until 10 years ago she started having problems with her mobility. After numerous tests she was eventually diagnosed with Heredity Spastic Paraplegia in 2012.

Today everything is a mental and physical struggle for her. She can no longer walk down a flight of stairs and had to sell her beloved house to move into a bungalow. Because of her extreme fatigue she often has to take time off work to simply re-set her body clock.

“Being awarded a scholarship will help me focus more on what I CAN achieve despite my HSP, rather than getting down and frustrated about the things I can no longer do. It will be an amazing opportunity and a personal challenge I am really looking forward to. It will help me through my tougher days when I struggle to be positive about my disability.”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Elaine Boyd

Sponsored by Worldwings Trust and training with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Born with Cerebral palsy, Elaine has always felt self-conscious of her disability and has had to find ways of doing things with the ability she has. After the sudden and tragic death of her mother last year, her confidence took a severe blow and she has been looking for a challenge to put her life back on track.

She had always enjoyed flying despite having a fear of heights. She read on Facebook about a fellow Cerebral Palsy sufferer who had learnt to fly after being awarded a FSDP scholarship so decided to apply herself.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be able to learn to fly due to my physical health. A scholarship will enable me to focus on getting my confidence back. It will give me purpose and help me regain a positive outlook on life. I am doing this for my Mum too!”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Andy Brown

Funded by the Scholars' Scholar and training with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Andy was born with Congenital Myopathy causing muscle weakness, shortness in height and mobility problems. He was bullied at school and was unable to take part in sporting activities. Despite appearing outwardly confident he has always struggled privately with low self-esteem.

Whilst volunteering as a coach for a Para Ice Hockey team he met a scholar who told him about being awarded a flying scholarship with FSDP. He had been fascinated by aircraft after seeing the Red Arrows display at the age of eight and that chance meeting reignited his passion for learning to fly himself.

“I feel flying will change my life and will give me a new challenge to focus on. It will boost my confidence and will give me a huge sense of achievement. Having a disability has always been a barrier for me but it will not stop me learning to fly”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Paul Clark

Sponsored by Sean Allerton and training with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

From an early age Paul has always loved aviation and would have loved a career in the RAF. Unfortunately he was born with a dislocated hip and despite having 22 operations he had his left leg amputated in 2016. He tries not to let the amputation get him down but it is not always easy especially as he is still waiting for his prosthetic leg.

Living near a US Airforce base, he pursued his love of aviation by taking photos of the aircraft rather than dreaming of flying them until he heard about Flying Scholarships for Disabled People. He always had a lifelong dream of being free in the skies where there is equality and no negativity.

“I just can’t put into words how my scholarship will change my life. I want to be a good role model for my children and gain back the confidence I once had”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Chris Clarke

Sponsored by British Airways High Flight and training with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Chris, a Science and Maths teacher, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis seven years ago but had first experienced the symptoms when he was 17. As a young man he was involved with rugby at a high level but had to give up playing when he was 21. Mental stimulation is also important to him and he loves learning new skills hence wanting to learn to fly.

“For me learning to fly will give me the opportunity to feel in control once again. To have that adrenaline rush once more, to feel the emotions associated with something that is both physical and mental.

“I would love to apply my scientific knowledge to an understanding of the principles of flight and could use this to great effect in teaching my students. I feel I could inspire them to follow a career in the RAF or aeronautical engineering”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Susan Couchman

Sponsored by the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust (In memory of Air Commodore David Bywater) and training with Turweston Flying Club at Turweston Aerodrome

Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1996, Susan was forced to retire from work on medical grounds only four years later losing friendships and her confidence. She feels she has still not mastered her MS but always tries to find a way forward including taking part in drugs trials. She would like to show others with energy sapping conditions that if she has the tenacity to fight her disease then they do too but she lacks the confidence to do it.

Her daughter Amy is in the RAF and heard about FSDP whilst serving at RAF Leeming. She told her mother about the scholarships and Susan decided to apply as she was looking for a life-changing challenge.

“I hope learning to fly will give me the confidence to speak publicly about my MS journey. It is important to demonstrate and encourage others that living life with MS is life well worth living”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Emma Demirgil

Sponsored by Wings Around the World and training with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Mother of five Emma discovered she had Heredity Spastic Paraplegia after having her daughter 13 years ago. Her HSP has caused progressive weakness in her leg muscles and she now uses an electronic device to help her walk as she doesn’t want to use a stick and be seen by others as ‘disabled’.

Having never received an ‘academic award’ for an accomplishment which involves learning, she generally doesn’t apply for anything outside of her comfort zone as she has a fear of being turned down. Filling out the application form for a FSDP scholarship was a huge challenge for her.

“I have the user name ‘emmaoneaglewings’ as I like to see myself as someone who could fly and be freed from my disability. Knowing that the people at FSDP believe I can succeed and fulfil my dream to fly like an eagle with wings is wonderful”

Kathy Hughes

Sponsored by the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust (Tim Prince) and training with Bristol Aero Club at Gloucestershire Aiport

Every day is a struggle for Kathy who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis; from rolling out of bed in pain, to heaving herself into her wheelchair and to sleepless. She also suffers from fatigue and anxiety and rarely feels positive about life.

She had to give up work a year ago and has pretty much stayed in her bedroom ever since as she didn’t want people seeing her in a wheelchair. Most of her life has revolved around horses and now unable to ride she is looking for a new challenge to kick-start her life.

“I was fortunate to have experienced a flight in a light aircraft over the Swiss Alps and felt exhilarated by it. I think learning to fly could become my life changing passion, improve my self-confidence and will help my life turn a corner. The experience will give me lots of smiles and fond memories”

Tim Matthews

Sponsored by The Air Pilots Benevolent Fund & The Aviation Supper Club and training with Turweston Flying Club at Turweston Aerodrome

Four years ago, Tim started to have bad pains in his hips and legs. He was referred to a consultant and after many tests he was told he had Heredity Spastic Paraplegia. He has found it difficult to come to terms with the diagnosis and all the things he was looking forward to doing in the future he can’t now do.

He had always loved aircraft as a boy, making airfix models of aeroplanes and visiting Airshows with his father. He shares his love with his disabled daughter and often takes her to Bournemouth Airport to see the aircraft take off and land.

“Although I have always thought about flying, I never believed it was a possibility. My scholarship has rekindled that flame in my heart. The past few years have been difficult for me and my family; I now having something positive to look forward to. I realise they may be other things I can still achieve despite having a disability”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Jacqui Ponde

Sponsored by Lockheed Martin and training with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

In 2009 Jacqui fell down the stairs, breaking her neck and incurring a life-changing spinal cord injury. She was selected for a ground-braking operation which eventually meant she could walk again but she still suffers from numerous symptoms including chronic pain, fatigue and partial paralysis to her right side. Despite this she remains grateful that she had a second chance with her family.

Up until the accident she was a hardworking Primary School Teacher, mother and wife. She wanted to be a good role mother to her children and make them proud of her. One of the hardest things to come to terms with is not being able to fulfil that dream. She also desperately misses the mental challenge her job gave her.

“I genuinely believe that my scholarship will give me the opportunity to make lifelong friends with like-minded people who have a range of disabilities and life challenges”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Ann Wild

Sponsored by British Airways High Flight (In memory of Paul Bowen) and training with Bristol Aero Club at Gloucestershire Aiport

Despite being born with Spina Bifida, Ann decided she wanted to be a pilot when she was only seven. When she was told by the Air Cadets that she couldn’t join because of her disability she was heartbroken. She was constantly told what she wasn’t able to do and feels she was seen as a failure from a young age by everyone about from her family.

Despite being in a wheelchair she cared for her mother during her final flight with cancer and is now looks after her father who is very frail at 95.

“Since my mother’s death I have lost my desire for life and feel lost and alone. My mother always understood my passion to be a pilot. She told me stories about Douglas Bader and how inspirational he was. I think that a scholarship will change my life by making me believe in myself again”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Amanda Worne

Sponsored by The Red Arrows Charitable Trust and training with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

In August 2015 Amanda was out training for a triathlon when her bike brakes failed and she hit a post at 50 miles per hour. She broke 11 bones, punctured a lung and became paralysed from the waist down. Since her accident she has faced many challenges but has always tried to remain positive for the sake of her family.

“I have always had a fear of flying. It is the feeling of being out of control and not understanding what keeps an aircraft up in the sky. Learning to fly will help me build my confidence and show my children what I can do despite being in a wheelchair.

I also hope that someone in a similar situation to me might draw strength from my flying experience and help them find hope in what might seem quite a desperate. It will show other people that there are no limits to what you can achieve”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Dawn Geer

Sponsored by Skyforce Avionics and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Over the last eight years mobility has been an increasing problem for Dawn as she has both multiple sclerosis and ankylosing spondylitis; she is now largely reliant on a wheelchair.

She worked as an Anaesthetic Theatre Sister but early retirement resulted in a loss of purpose, low self-esteem and a feeling that she was not contributing to society anymore. She appeared confident and positive but in private she experienced less positive emotions such as loneliness, isolation and self-doubt.

She has always found flying scary. A chance meeting with an FSDP scholar planted the seed that a scholarship could help her overcome her fears.

“I cannot begin to describe the gratitude and honour I feel for having this opportunity. It is more than learning to fly. It is about realising the potential in humans that are reeling from an injury, an illness or struggling through life”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Rebecca Giddings

Sponsored by Lockheed Martin and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

After routine holiday vaccinations in 2014, Rebecca suffered an unexpected autoimmune response and was subsequently diagnosed with rare conditions; prinzemetal’s angina, ehlers-danlos and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.

That diagnosis forced her to give up her career as Head of Compliance for a large merchant bank, and riding her beloved motorbike. This severely knocked her confidence and left her feeling guilty about being so ill.

“The more time I spend with the FSDP folks the more I realise that flying is a small part of the scholarship.; it is all about confidence and making a positive difference Thanks to FSDP I am starting to rebuild my spirit and my life, moving forward and not focusing on the past. I am building a new life that accepts that I am ill but that my illness can’t and won’t stop me. I am now giving something back to FSDP by helping with fundraising.”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Philip Grace

Sponsored by British Airways High Flight and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

In January 2014, Philip was involved in a serious industrial accident losing his right forearm. This led to a very challenging period in his life when he had to learn how to do everything with just his left arm including writing his own name.

Aviation has been part of Philip’s life since he was a young boy. From listening to his grandfather’s stories about the war and visits to local airports with his father to watch the planes, to working for Airbus manufacturing the A320 wings; he has always wanted to learn to fly.

“My flying scholarship showed my friends and family that even in adversity, positive things can be accomplished. Learning to fly changed my life for the better and gave me the foundation to find work in the aviation industry once again”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Damian Harper

Sponsored by The Aviation Supper Club and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Just after starting his A-levels in 1986, Damian was diagnosed with a rare type of bone cancer which resulted in an amputation from his left hip. He threw himself into living his life and qualified as a Biomedical Scientist.

It appeared to everyone he was confident, self-assured and outgoing but in reality he was living a lie. In 2013 his world collapsed when his past traumas caught up with him and he was diagnosed with PTSD and chronic depression; spending most of his days in bed.

“I have met some of the most wonderful people and now feel like they will be life-long friends as we shared a wonderful experience together, that can now never be taken away. I feel like I have become a member of a very special, exclusive club or family. So thank you FSDP, I think you are not just changing lives but you are also saving lives”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Ross Minton

Sponsored by Wings Around the World and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Ross was born with myopathy with contractures; a rare condition which left him with muscle weakness and joint stiffness. There was little support for people with his condition when he was growing up and he didn’t realise he was ‘disabled’ until he was 22.

He attained a degree in advertising and had a successful career as a graphic designer until he was made redundant in 2014. He found being unemployed extremely hard and started to suffer from depression; not wanting to leave the house or participate in his hobbies. He had the mind-set that if he wasn’t working he wasn’t allowed to enjoy any free time.

“FSDP has helped me rediscover the Ross I was, and not the Ross I had painfully become. I now feel free to do whatever I want and no-one can tell me otherwise, because I can fly!”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Matthew Monaghan

Funded by the Scholars' Scholar and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Born with minicore myopathy with ophthalmoplegia, Matthew has always found it difficult to lead a normal life. He has spent his 28 years trying to overcome every obstacle that his condition has thrown at him; learning to walk, driving a car and going to a mainstream school where he achieved three A-levels. He is now studying for a BA Honours in Language Studies.

From a young age he has had an interest in aviation – he loved to watch the aircraft take off and land at his local airport and listen to his grandmother’s stories of living next to an aerodrome.

“The whole experience feels like a dream. Every time I think of flying it brings a huge smile to my face. It feels like I can do anything now and things that I never would have considered before are now all options. Thank you from the bottom of my heart”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Simon Mount

Sponsored by an anonymous donor and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Simon was born with pseudoachondroplasia; a form of restricted growth which causes pain in his joints and back. Standing at under five feet he has often been on the receiving end of inappropriate jokes, stares and people not taking his opinions seriously; leading to a lack of confidence.

He has had a passion for aviation since he was a young boy. Today he satisfies this with visits to Manchester Airport where he listens in to the Air Traffic Controllers on his scanner and by watching aviation documentaries on TV.

“The experience really was a once in a lifetime and I loved every minute of it. I was put in a situation where the usual obstacles of having a disability were put aside and the mind-set was that we could achieve our goals despite our challenges”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Daniel Pelling

Sponsored by the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust (In memory of Air Commodore David Bywater) and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Whilst on detachment in Italy in 2000, Dan was hit by a car which resulted in a spinal injury leaving him paralysed from the armpits down. His friends and family helped him come to terms with his disability but he always regrets missing out on an opportunity to be a passenger in the Harrier.

With a keen interest in aviation and engineering, Dan had joined the RAF aged 17 and, after training, joined a Harrier GR7 squadron at RAF Cottesmore. He spent part of his time on HMS Illustrious during the British military intervention in Sierra Leone.

“Being awarded a flying scholarship way more than topped my missed opportunity. I never thought I would be able to learn to fly as I am in a wheelchair. Who knows where it could lead? I could be the first paralysed commercial pilot!”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Kerry Shaw

Sponsored by The Red Arrows Charitable Trust and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

In 2013 Kerry, a mother of six, suffered a life changing injury which left her confined to a wheelchair. At the time of the accident she felt very scared and alone as she was separated from her family; having to spend her time in a spinal rehabilitation unit.

She realised that she had to focus on the future and not on what she had lost. Her father was the inspiration behind her ambition to learn to fly – he died of cancer before he was able to gain his licence.

“Learning to fly was a fantastic experience and I am truly thankful to FSDP and to my sponsor. I will now be able to deal with whatever life throws at me. I hope I have shown that having a disability shouldn’t stop you achieving and succeeding in making your dreams come true”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Gary Tattersall

Sponsored by British Airways High Flight (In memory of Paul Bowen) and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Twenty years ago Gary was involved in a motorbike accident which left him with constant and relentless pain in his right leg. He eventually had a below the knee amputation in 2016 and now has a prosthetic leg.

He tried to return to work four months after the amputation but complications with his residual limb meant he has been on sick leave since the operation. He has always been an independent person and having to rely on other people has been difficult for him to come to terms with.

“My scholarship experience was brilliant and it has changed my outlook on what I can and cannot do now. As a result of my experience I have been back on a bike and have been practising archery. I feel there is nothing stopping me from achieving anything I want to do”

To learn to fly like me apply here

James Thomson

Sponsored by The Honourable Company of Air Pilots and trained with Bristol Aero Club at Gloucestershire Airport

Two years ago whilst skiing in Switzerland, Jamie fell and broke his back and sternum resulting in paralysis from the chest down. Having been a farmer since he left agricultural college in 1991, doing all the farm work himself, he now faces life in a wheelchair unable to operate his farm machinery.

Whilst in Stoke Mandeville he met another farmer with similar disabilities who told him he had his pilot’s licence and flew his own aircraft from his farm. Always having loved aviation, this spurred him to research opportunities for people in a wheelchair to learn to fly and he came across FSDP.

“Initially I did not understand the ‘FSDP family’ tag line but I do now and I feel part of an exclusive club. It really is a huge privilege to have been awarded a scholarship; something I am very proud of and grateful for”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Tom Toolan

Sponsored by the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust (Tim Prince) and trained with Bristol Aero Club at Gloucestershire Aiport

Nine years ago, Tom fell 50ft down a stairwell breaking his spine in five places, leaving him in a coma and paralysed from the mid torso down. His disability had a fundamental effect on his life. He had to start from the very beginning; learning to speak, eat, wash and dress himself again. He had to give up his house, car, work, and the skiing which he loved.

He had joined the Air Cadets at the age of 13 and loved the flying he was lucky enough to experience. He thought that like skiing, flying was something he would be unable to pursue as a wheelchair user.

“Doing the scholarship has shown me that I shouldn’t be scared of the future. I can now look at all the other things I would like to do in my life and think I don’t know why I was so worried about them in the first place”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Stuart Campbell

Sponsored by Royal Air Force Charitable Trust (In memory of Air Commodore David Bywater) and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Stuart joined the Royal Air Force, flying in a variety of aircraft as a passenger, but his lifelong ambition is to pilot an aeroplane and to take his wife flying.

Stuart suffers from arthritis, anxiety and depression. The deterioration in his physical health and loss of mobility, since leaving the Royal Air Force, has been very difficult for him to deal with, and whilst trying to remain positive, he suffers from a lack of confidence and a feeling of inadequacy.

When I entered my scholarship I very rarely left home without my wife and was very under confident in my own abilities. I was also suffering from anxiety and depression over and above my physical disabilities and I was very wary of going to new places and meeting new people. FSDP changed that in a very short space of time

Celestyn Chmielewski

Sponsored by Wings Around the World and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Celestyn was born profoundly deaf which has also affected his speech. Striving throughout his life to overcome his disability, he has worn hearing aids, has recently had cochlear implants and is undergoing speech therapy. His aspiration is to be able to hear and speak normally.

His passion for aviation started when his father took him flying in a light aircraft as a young boy. Once he was older he would practice flying aircraft using a flight simulator on his computer, before later going on to college to study Aviation Operations.

“I want to say thank you to FSDP for giving me a scholarship. I had a great summer learning to fly a microlight aircraft ! The experience I have gained will help me find a career in the aviation industry which is my long term goal. ”

Mark Colquitt

Sponsored by British Airways High Flight and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

On 30 October 1996 Mark, aged 16, was walking home from his first day of work experience when he was struck by an out of control car. He woke from an induced coma five weeks later attached to a ventilator helping him to breath, and unable to move.

In 2012 his neuropathic left foot had become badly damaged and infected and so he had a below the knee amputation; he has spent the last four years learning to walk on his prosthetic leg.

“The scholarship has been a completely uplifting experience in my life making me more mature and confident as a person. It was a big challenge but one I achieved success over with your help at FSDP. I wish to continue my involvement with the charity and try to offer my support to future scholars.”

Karen Cox

Sponsored by the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust and training with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Simply accepting that Karen has her own physical limitations has been a personal battle, seeing her fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and hypermobility syndrome issues as minor compared to the physically obvious disabilities of those she has come into contact with during her charitable fundraising activities.

After meeting former FSDP scholar Sean Allerton, she began to understand more about the way others see their own disabilities and how they deal with the way they are perceived in their daily lives.

“I am going to make the most of my new found confidence having been sprinkled with a healthy dollop of FSDP magic – being seen on my mobility scooter, driving, going abroad on holiday, meeting new people. It feels like the next chapter of my FSDP scholarship is just about to begin, and the learning to fly was merely the prologue to the rest of my life.”

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Derek Dente

Sponsored by John & Diana Davy and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Learning to fly has been a lifelong ambition of Derek’s. From the age of five his parents would take him to nearby Gatwick Airport to watch the planes take off and land – a pursuit he continues as he grows older.

Nine years ago Derek was diagnosed with a form of motor neurone disease, which has caused a weakness in his arms and difficulties with his speech. Since his diagnosis he has taken on a number of challenges, many raising money for charity. He retired on medical grounds in early 2015 and wants to face one of his biggest challenges – learning to fly a light aircraft. 

“A huge thank you to everyone at FSDP involved in giving me a truly amazing and memorable experience. My dream is to fly my family and friends for pleasure. “

To learn to fly like me apply here

Howard Doupe

Sponsored by British Airways High Flight (In memory of Paul Bowen) and trained with Bristol Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Howard was born with haemophilia; a condition which causes bleeds within the joints. Growing up was frustrating, unable to be as active as his friends, as any knock or bump could be very serious. He poured his efforts into his education and qualified as a school teacher, however, the impact on his physical health meant that he reluctantly retired on medical grounds a year ago.

He’s had a life-long dream of learning to fly but believed that his disability would prevent him from doing so, until he read that FSDP had given a scholarship to a fellow haemophilia sufferer, so he applied straight away.

“The scholarship came at such a crossroads moment in my life that a new direction was desperately needed for my own self-belief, sense of purpose in life and above all sanity! ”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Peter Lau

Sponsored by Lockhead Martin and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

As a Fire Officer, Peter’s world was well organised and structured; however, in 2014 he had a mountain bike accident. After six weeks, in a medically induced coma, he woke to find his world had been destroyed, now facing life in wheelchair as a T7 paraplegic.

Learning to fly has always been Peter’s dream. He feels his scholarship will give him a new direction to develop himself again, rebuilding his confidence and to find the person he once was.

“During my scholarship I learnt a lot about myself; I learnt that despite my disability I am capable of so much more – I can still do things that are hard or challenging I learned that I still have a sense of worth and that inner confidence and esteem I had before my accident.”

To learn to fly like me apply here

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Lee Rowe

Sponsored by The Air Pilots Benevolent Fund and trained with Bristol Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Growing up next to an airfield gave Lee an affinity with aircraft, and at 16 he enquired about becoming a pilot. Indifferent academic results meant he was turned down so he joined the Royal Marines, hoping to eventually become a helicopter pilot.

While working as a forward air controller in Brunei, co-ordinating the evacuation of a fellow injured marine from a jungle winch hole, he was hit by a falling tree, leaving him paralysed from the waist down, and being medically discharged.

“The greatest gift my scholarship has given me so far is a keen desire to talk about what I am now (an aviator) and what I hope to be (an employed professional and adventurer through the medium of aviation), rather than what I was. As such I look to the future with both excitement and optimism.”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Mark Tustain

Sponsored by an anonymous donor and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

On 9 May 2009, Mark was involved in a motorbike accident damaging his spinal cord and leaving him in a wheelchair. Although his disability changed his life he was determined not to let it get the better of him.

He has been hooked on aviation since age seven when his father bought him his first remote controlled aircraft; they would spend every weekend building and flying these models. When his father took up paragliding he would go up with him at every chance he could, until prevented by his accident.

“It is difficult to describe in words what a scholarship has done for my life. To be able to learn to fly with my disability; something I have always wanted to do has been really amazing. It has proved to me that this dreadful injury can’t stop me doing anything.”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Adrian Walton

Sponsored by Royal Air Force Charitable Trust (Tim Prince) and Trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Adrian’s first memory of wanting to fly was as a five year old dressed up as Superman, jumping off his bunk bed. Once old enough, he joined the RAF Regiment where Adrian was able to fly in military aircraft and travel the world. Sadly, whilst on a mortar course, he was involved in a serious accident in his Landrover, severing his spinal cord and leaving him to face life in a wheelchair.

Adrian now works as a volunteer for DIAL, a charity providing support, information and advice to disabled people and their families, and is now looking for a new challenge in his life.

“I have loved every minute flying and thank you for awarding me this scholarship. I have found friends for life in my training partner Peter Lau and my flying instructor John Griffin. ”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Claire White

The Red Arrows Charitable Trust and trained with Bristol Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Claire’s world was shattered in 2006 when her beloved father died and she was diagnosed with both multiple sclerosis and colon cancer. A chance meeting with a FSDP supporter prompted her to apply for a scholarship to learn to fly – something she had always wanted to do. She was offered a place at the 2015 Selection Board but had to pull out when her husband was taken ill; sadly he died two months later.

“I feel sad that I had to make this journey on my own but I know it’s what Peter would have wanted. I can’t believe what a difference the scholarship has made; I know have a ‘can do’ attitude to everything. I am going to make the most of my new confidence. The best thing ever said to me – ‘you are part of the FSDP family now’. Priceless!”

To learn to fly like me apply here

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George Adaway

Sponsored by Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Born with a congenital absence of both legs, George has learnt to walk with the use of two prosthetic legs. As a consequence, he says, quite honestly he cannot judge what difference this has made to his life, as he has never really known anything different!

“I found that FSDP really has helped me to begin to come to terms with my disability. I have begun to see it as a much smaller part of who I am and that it isn’t such a big deal to others. This improved level of confidence has led me to become far more active. I now go walking and swimming which has led to a huge improvement to my physical self. A healthy body goes hand in hand with a healthy mind which the flying scholarship has certainly helped to set in motion”

Mark Barnett

Sponsored by Lockhead Martin and trained with Aerobility at Blackbushe

Mark has learnt to live with Ehlers-Danlos, which he had at birth, affecting his mobility and ability to work. A Christmas present of a trial flight in a Cessna 152 fired his imagination and as he says “I was completely hooked”. He joined the Air Cadets but realized his disability would prevent him from joining the RAF.

Mark passed his driving test, but an operation intended to help him walk was unsuccessful and the following months of rehabilitation at home did nothing for his confidence; in fact he began to suffer with agoraphobia and panic attacks. He does enjoy volunteer work with a disabled children’s charity, and feels he is fortunate when he compares his life to many others.

“Learning to fly was a far more rewarding and enjoyable experience than I could have imagined. Thank you to FSDP and Lockheed Martin”

Tim Clare

Sponsored by Royal Air Force Charitable Trust and trained with Aerobility at Blackbushe

Thirty years ago whilst on holiday in Lanzarote, Tim was involved in a road accident resulting in him being paralysed from the neck down. The trauma was both physical and emotional, trying to adjust to a life where the simplest of tasks depends on help from another person. From being an active young man he had two alternatives, either to give in to his disability or try to do something useful with his life; so he undertook a history degree and made every effort to make the best of things.

Tim hopes that through his scholarship he can inspire others to undertake adventures to challenge themselves, regain lost confidence and no longer feel like second class citizens.

“FSDP is a fantastic organisation filled with a mix of amazing people. I am fortunate to become part of this great club”

Bethany Colburn

Sponsored by an anonymous donor and trained with American Aviation Academy at San Diego, USA

Bethany was born with cerebral palsy affecting her mobility so she knows all about the constrictions that her condition imposes physically. A trial flight made her realise how much she wanted to learn to fly, “nothing else makes me feel relaxed, at peace with myself and free like flying does”.

“My scholarship experience taught me to acknowledge my achievements, to take a step back from time to time and look at how far I have come. My focus before was always on how far I had to go to get to my destination. But now, thanks to my scholarship, I can see the successes of my journey while still holding onto my determination. I have learnt that the art of enjoying life is to recognise your achievements and accredit yourself to them”

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Peter David

Sponsored by an anonymous donor and trained with American Aviation Academy at San Diego, USA

Following a career in the Royal Navy Police, two years ago Peter suffered an ankle infection that became so serious that he had to have his left leg amputated above the knee. It was devastating for him, unable to walk the dog or mow the lawn. His feelings of inadequacy were so strong that if it were not for his wife’s strength, and her ability to lift him out of his depression, he didn’t know what he would have done.

“My scholarship made me finally realise that having one leg was not an obstacle and in particular was not an obstacle to flying an aeroplane. More importantly, it also made me recognise the fact that with the support of my family, friends and my unique peer group, I could push on through that metaphysical steel wall that had always carried the sign, ‘You cannot do this!’ “

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Rachel (Ray) Davis

Sponsored by The Air Pilots Benevolent Fund and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Ray was born with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which is progressive, bringing increased weakness to her lower limbs. Working full time, she also volunteers for Whizz Kids, encouraging disabled children to face challenges with positivity.

She nursed her fiancé through his final days of cancer, with a road trip to California, rather than him spending them in a hospital bed; “it was a privilege, the joy of one last adventure”.

“I have gained a lot from the scholarship experience, beyond just the achievement of flying solo and am very grateful to FSDP for the opportunity. For a long time I had wanted to learn to fly but thought it was something my medical condition would prevent me doing. Successfully learning a skill I thought was beyond my abilities has been a very positive experience, and one I am excited to share”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Emma Dobson

Sponsored by The Red Arrows Charitable Trust and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Over the past three years mobility has been an increasing problem for Emma, having been diagnosed with spastic paraparesis, and possibly the early onset of hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP).

She had lost confidence and has had to forego interests, such as singing in a rock and pop choir, in order to maintain the energy needed to keep her job as a social worker – everyday life has been an uphill struggle. She spent a week every month for 18 months in hospital receiving unsuccessful specialized treatment while also coping with tragedy within her family circle.

“I loved having the opportunity to experience something new and to build my confidence back up despite all the challenges I have faced. It is a dream come true learning to fly, an achievement that has made me and my family so proud”

Joanne Kay

Sponsored by Carol Vorderman and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

At just age nine, Joanne was diagnosed with an aggressive bone tumour, which started in her leg and spread into her torso; a rare and extreme amputation saved her life. Due to the rarity and complexity of her amputation, Joanne has never had a successful artificial leg, but she has never given up looking for someone to invent one for her.

Since becoming disabled she has always been determined to be positive, gaining a degree in Art and beginning a career with the BBC on Blue Peter, then making documentaries about disability issues.

“I was resourced to learn to fly a plane solo in just over 18 hours. I know flying solo isn’t the aim of the scholarship, but it was a fantastic way for me to end my three weeks. It was the icing on the cake – a gift beyond measure”

Adam Lovegrove

Sponsored by The Air Pilots Benevolent Fund and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Born with spina bifida, and despite an operation when only a few weeks old, Adam still has spinal problems. He attained a degree in Criminology and Applied Psychology and although he applied to join the RAF, he realised it was not a realistic possibility.

An accident at work four years ago further damaged his back, and resulted in long periods off work. He was unable to pursue his interests, leaving him isolated and depressed. He now works as a support worker with the Sussex Association for Spina Bifida and Hydracephalitis, helping others with his condition. The scholarship has made him feel more positive about his future, and has helped him become the person he knew he was meant to be.

“Adrenaline surged through me during every flight; it made me feel alive, like I could do anything I wanted”

To learn to fly like me apply here

Kevin Ogilvie

Sponsored by Royal Air Force Charitable Trust and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

With a keen interest in aviation, Kevin joined the RAF at aged 18 and, after basic training, was posted to Afghanistan in 2010. Six months into his second tour, in 2012, his vehicle hit an IED leaving him with serious spinal injuries and unable to walk again.

Kevin was discharged from the RAF in October 2014 and is now concentrating on supporting others recovering from similar injuries.

“The feeling of being out of my chair, free and in control of a plane was incredible. Just because I use a wheelchair to get around doesn’t mean I am not able to achieve and take part in the things I love to do. Learning to fly after my injury was amazing and is a definite highlight of my life so far. It was a confidence boost and a fantastic experience”

Clive Osborn

Sponsored by British Airways Flight (In memory of Paul Bowen) and trained with Bristol Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Clive was born with cerebral palsy, so his life has always been an uphill struggle with many challenges which most of us will never have to face. But when he suffered a spinal injury at work eight years ago, he really felt his life had ended; he had to learn to walk again, his arms were affected too and consequently he lost his job.

Flying has always been a distant dream and Clive thought it was beyond his means. Being unable to work he realised the importance of keeping busy and in 2013 he gained a degree in theology, giving him a sense of pride and achievement.

“My scholarship has been an incredible experience. It has shown me that I am physically and emotionally capable of far more than I ever imagined”

Kevin Plowman

Sponsored by British Airways High Flight and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Twenty-five years ago, keen mountaineer Kevin suffered a serious accident whilst climbing and was left facing his future mobility dependent on a wheelchair. He had always been interested in aviation and long before his accident had been inspired by Sir Douglas Bader’s story.

Redundancy and a debilitating shoulder injury left Kevin feeling very low. Hearing about FSDP reminded him of the exhilarating trial flying lesson he had enjoyed a few years ago, so this scholarship couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time in his life.

“The scholarship was a great experience for me and one that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am grateful for the opportunity and would like to give thanks to all those who made it possible”

Ross Proctor

Sponsored by Wings Around the World and trained with Gryphon Aero Club at Cotswold Airport

Ross was born with congenital leg deformity resulting in short stature. As a child, aircraft held his imagination, but realizing his dream of joining the RAF was not possible he turned to drama; however, his stature restricted the roles available. He is now enjoying a career in music.

“The scholarship gave me a much needed boost. Landing was particularly more nerve racking than I expected, but by pushing myself through the fear it actually gave me a huge feeling of satisfaction once on the ground. I felt a huge sense of achievement throughout the whole three weeks. It gave me a new found purpose and self-belief that had definitely diminished over the years prior to the scholarship. Being in the air was wonderful and it gave me a chance to look at life from a new perspective”

Saavik Rai

Sponsored by John & Diana Davy and trained with Aerobility at Blackbushe

Until five years ago Saavik was an active young man with a job as a trainee mechanic, as well as running a successful IT department for a publishing company. He was then involved in two road accidents that left him with a painful damaged back, mobility problems and, after being bed bound for six months, unemployed. All this led to a period of depression and to compound his problems, he became homeless.

Saavik found himself living at the local YMCA, a difficult transition with his disability. But he used this time to become involved in the community and all the areas of the YMCA to support others in need.

“I have wanted to learn to fly as long as I can remember. The scholarship challenged me on every level and had reinstated my motivation and confidence”

Paul Stares

Sponsored by British Airways High Flight and trained with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum

Twenty-one years ago Paul was involved in a motorbike accident that, while lucky to survive, left him paraplegic. Initially it felt like a major setback but, on reflection, he feels it may have opened many doors, which previously he would not have considered, in particular his ability to inspire others.

In 2005 he set the world record for the longest “wheelie” in a wheel chair, at an amazing distance of eight miles. He has also designed and fitted retractable stabilisers to his 1000cc sports motorbike enabling him to ride again.

Being awarded a FSDP scholarship has taught me so much more than just learning to fly. One of the most important things I have come to understand is, there is so much more to learn… and not just about flying … it’s all about one’s own personal desire to achieve”