Meet The Crew

Guy Bowen

It is a real honour to be your Chairman and also work alongside such a great group of trustees and friends. We have some exciting plans for the future and will continue to try and build upon what we have done well in the past. In my mind, one of the most important aspects of the Big Wing is the Onward Journey…what happens after your selection process or scholarship has ended. We will be working hard on this area to offer inspiration, encouragement and opportunities to our community.

Importantly the Big Wing gives you direct access to us, you will see at the bottom of all of our bios there is a blue speech icon tap it to send us a direct message. We will be regularly checking in to the Big Wing Lounge, so please feel free to message any of us at any time.

Rebecca Giddings

In 2017 I was awarded a scholarship with Flying Scholarships for Disabled People, I started to learn to fly. I took that incredible feeling of freedom that flying brings and started to turn my life and mental health around. This was a new beginning for me, it was time to take back control, it was time for me to stop looking backwards and trying to get back to who I was and to start looking forward to what I could be.

Since my scholarship, I have restarted work on my PhD, taken up archery and started singing lessons, I have even sung at my first public gig. FSDP gave me the strength to face the fact that my life was never going to go back to what it was and helped me to realise that was ok, I didn’t need to go backwards. Having to retire at 33, when my career was such a huge part of my life had a massive impact on my self-worth, I honestly felt like I was useless and on the scrap heap. My scholarship gave me the confidence to look forward to my future and to realise that I could still make a massive difference. When I am not in hospital I use my time to raise awareness of invisible illness and in particular Ehlers Danlos, I have written for global online blogs, been part of awareness videos and even been a calendar girl, showing the younger generation that it is ok to be different.

FSDP is so close to my heart because of what they did for me and how much they helped me that I wanted to give something back. So I started to fundraise for them and have managed to secure funding for 3 scholarships. I am also extremely proud that in 2019, I was appointed as an FSDP Trustee. I am really looking forward to seeing the difference the scholarships can make in others.

Ian Revell

I have recently retired as an Air Traffic Control Watch Manager at Manchester Airport after over 35 years as a controller, including managing the Royal International Air Tattoo’s volunteer Air Traffic Control team at RAF Fairford. I continue to work with the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, delivering Aerospace training through the Qualified Aerospace Instructors Course.

Having had close links with FSDP for many years during my time at RIAT, I was appointed as a Trustee in May 2019. As a keen Private Pilot, I look forward to the challenges of working with the charity and furthering it’s aims to challenge and inspire scholars.

John Sorsby

My aviation career started in the Royal air Force. I joined as an Apprentice Technician and spent 5 years on 617 (Dambusters) Squadron working on the Tornado GR1 before being selected to become Aircrew. I then spent 10 years as a Flight Engineer on 10 and 101 Sqns flying the VC10. During this time, I was involved in training crews for the Air to Air refuelling role and, once I gained my commercial pilot’s licence, it was a natural step to start flying instruction.

I joined the airlines in 2000 and have flown the Dash 8, Embraer 145, Boeing 747 and Airbus A320. I was recently selected by British Airways to become a Training Captain. Throughout my airline career I have continued instructing and first became fully involved in FSDP in 2015.

I’ve enjoyed watching the scholars change and grow with confidence through their scholarships. Modifying the flying training delivery to suit the individual and creating the optimum learning environment is a real passion of mine. The charity offers an amazing opportunity for people and I’m passionate about seeing that delivered.

Angus Hickish

The nicest things in life generally happen by coincidence. I met Fiona Luckhurst in 2018 when I decided I ought to have some flying lessons and enrolled with her flying school; I’d been a General Practitioner and Aeromedical Examiner for many years but up till then had never had the time.

Fiona has, of course, been involved with FSDP for many years. She introduced me to Dr Liz Fox who kindly invited me to help out with the selection process at RAF Cranwell in Spring 2019. There, I met so many inspiring people; some were achieving great things and reaching heights they had not imagined possible, some were helping others to do this and some (in fact probably most) were doing both. I am privileged to have become involved with FSDP.

David Higham

I originally hail from Southport in the north-west of England and have a varied background with experience in finance, audit and general management in both small and large industrial and commercial business sectors.

For the last 16 years of a career that has spanned 50 years, I was involved with the Royal International Air Tattoo – latterly as Finance Director as well as having overall responsibility for RAFCTE’s trading activities, including mail order and publications. Since my retirement in 2013, I have been a RIAT volunteer and, in 2014, became the editor of RIAT’s annual souvenir programme.

I am a keen photographer (mainly not involving aircraft!) and in 2015 was asked to help with photography at the FSDP scholars’ annual ceremony during the RIAT show weekend. Soon after, in 2017, I became an FSDP Trustee and am now also the charity’s current Safeguarding Officer.

Thus far, I have found the Trustee role to be most rewarding – experiencing and seeing first hand many tangible benefits for scholars at every stage during their annual FSDP inspirational journey. During RIAT’s ‘gap year’ in 2020, I assisted, as editor, with the production of the 300 page heavily illustrated book celebrating 50 years of the International Air Tattoo.

I am married with 3 children and have 7 grandchildren. I live with my wife Shirley in Calne in Wiltshire. In addition to my love of photography, my other interests include watching sport, reading, music and DIY.

Ben Bennett

I was awarded a scholarship in 2005 at a time in my life when I desperately needed a big boost, having recently taken ill health retirement from a job that I loved in the aerospace industry. Ever since then I have been a mentor and a trustee and it’s been a huge privilege to be involved in giving others the amazing aviation opportunities that I experienced myself.

Witnessing much needed smiles return to faces and some great friendships develop over the past 15 years, not to mention many individuals developing significantly higher levels of confidence and self-esteem has been very special and something I’ll never forget.


Helen’s story to follow…


While busy working as a physiotherapist my partner Richard rarely rang me at work and that was usually with difficult news from his oncology appointments. 

Then one day, mid clinic, a call came that was as far from those as it’s possible to imagine… he’d just flown solo and was literally crying with joy. 


The challenge of learning to fly brought back so much fulfilment, self esteem, excitement and pride to what turned out to be Richard’s final months. 


Having volunteered for several years in the FSDP medical team and more recently as a trustee, I am honoured to play my part helping others rediscover their very best versions of themselves.

Alex Krol

I am a former Royal Marines Commando who managed to win gold at the Invictus Games after overcoming my spinal injury. My career was short lived when I was involved in a road traffic accident which left me paralysed resulting in me being a fulltime wheelchair user with limited use of my body.

I’m a 2008 solar, I went out to 43 Air School Port Elizabeth South Africa for PPL training with FSDP. I stayed on to make it 55 hours self funded.  It was the best time of my life.

I then achieved a UK PPL with Aerobility out of Tatenhill.

At the moment I fly out of Liverpool John Lennon with Ravenair.  I have over 300 hours, IR (R) Night rating and a Balloon PPL 🎈(not that I get the chance to use it). I use a PA28 with a rudder hand control. I also flew the Grob Able from Germany to the UK last year. A very lovely aircraft 😎👍

Adam Collins

Adam’s bio will be with us soon

Fiona Luckhurst

I have been involved with a charity teaching paraplegic and tetraplegic people to fly since 1993 using modified microlight aircraft and control systems. This work continues with FSDP, and I was delighted to become a Trustee of the charity in 2016, enabling me to represent the Flying Schools and ensure that our scholars get the best possible flying experience during their scholarship.  


I was delighted to become a Trustee in September 2022 having been involved directly or indirectly with the charity since just after it began.  I worked from 1985 as PA to the Co-Founder and Director of International Air Tattoo (IAT), Paul Bowen, and it was my first ever job! It was certainly a massive learning curve but I was excited to be around aeroplanes and amazing people!  I even managed to persuade both my parents to become volunteers for several of the airshows and join the IAT family! As part of my role, I was involved in supporting the scholarship selection process and the actual scholarships themselves. The FSDP was in its infancy but from the very beginning was achieving amazing results in changing people’s lives.

Apart from working for two periods for the IAT (!), I have worked in the computer training industry and, in the past twenty years, in health & social care in both general management and operational management roles.  I currently work as Operations Director for a retirement village business and this role also gives me the opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives.

I live in Gloucestershire and have two grown up girls who both live in Birmingham. Apart from aviation, my other interest is narrowboats, and I am fortunate enough to have a boat moored at Droitwich Spa from where I can explore the country … slowly … as the boat travels at a maximum of 4 mph!  Other interests include cooking, reading, travel and spending time with friends and family.

Fiona Luckhurst

I have been involved with a charity teaching paraplegic and tetraplegic people to fly since 1993 using modified microlight aircraft and control systems. I’m proud to say that some 18 disabled people achieved their pilot’s licence with this charity over the years. Although this charity no longer exists, using flying to challenge disabled people continues, and the personal reward I get from seeing FSDP scholar’s achievements, flying and non-flying, is massive. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to share a cockpit and the fun of flying with them.

Kathryn Hutchings

I joined Shadow Aviation some 10 years ago and have been working with the team on FSDP courses ever since. Many scholars arrive with feelings of anxiety and self-doubt about their ability to master flying an aeroplane and I can relate to that, I was the same. So, when I’m sat next to them as the instructor, hands on my knees and they suddenly realise they really are completely in control of the aeroplane, doing great, I get the biggest ‘kick’ possible. It’s addictive and I can remember each and every one of their faces when that moment occurs.  

Raymond Proost

I first flew with disabled people along with Fiona in 1993, and for me, using flying to challenge disabled people continues with the FSDP. Over the last 10 years I have flown with many FSDP scholars, every one has been a personal achievement for me, and I enjoy the challenge it brings to every individual.  


I’m John Marriott, I’m a retired airline captain and a flight safety representative of the Ex British Airline Pilots Association. I teach students from my base at Turweston Flying Club, and have been doing so for 35 years now! I’m also a glider pilot, and most importantly an amateur magician (although I try to limit my tricks to the ground!)

Paul Shenton

I learnt to fly on the Scottish Aviation Bulldog whilst on Manchester and Salford Universities Air Squadron back in the early 80’s. This was followed by a further eleven years of service which involved three tours flying the Tornado F3. In 1995 I was selected to spend two seasons displaying the Spitfire and Hurricane with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. During this time I was privileged to fly the Hurricane over Buckingham Palace during the VE celebrations and I am currently a Captain on the 787 Dreamliner.

I was introduced to FSDP by John Sorsby. We also have an amputee FI and we had two amputee students. So the concept wasn’t perhaps as intimidating as it could have been. Having gained a lot from aviation, and seen what others can gain from it I was keen to help.

Debra Ford

I grew up overlooking Filton airfield, witnessing with my dad, the first British Concorde take off at the age of seven. No wonder then that I always dreamt of learning to fly. At University the Air Squadron wasn’t open to women so I had to save up to pay for flying lessons. I gained my pilots licence in 1990 and my dad was my first passenger!

A few years later I went on to gain my Commercial Pilot’s licence and completed my flying instructor rating at RAF Brize Norton. My passion is sharing the joy of flight and making aviation inclusive to everyone. Aviation was not that inclusive when I started and that’s something I wanted to help change.

My involvement with FSDP started around 15 years ago when Bristol Aero Club became involved with providing flying training for an ex FSDP scholar looking to complete their licence. I found the tailored training that FSDP scholars require incredibly rewarding and the results inspiring. Each scholar has different goals and I enjoy adapting my instructing to ensure they achieve them. It’s fabulous to watch scholar’s self-confidence grow as they take control of the aircraft and actually fly and I get an immense sense of pride in helping each scholar reach their full potential.

This charity truly changes lives, it has provided me with many new friendships, and I hope to be involved for many more years!

Steve Moore

Although I started my working life in the NHS Pathology laboratories after leaving university, it was always my dream and ambition to become a commercial pilot. I have now been flying for more than 15 years and originally completed my PPL training in the USA before going on to complete all my commercial training in the UK. By my own admission, I am somewhat obsessed when it comes to anything that flies.

I hold an ATPL (Air Transport Pilot Licence) and normally fly airliners as a day to day job. I have flown the Dash 8 Q400 for Flybe and more recently the B747-400 for British Airways. I started instructing for Bristol Aero Club in 2016 and was keen to be involved with teaching FSDP students. I have always been of the mindset that anyone should be allowed to learn to fly regardless of physical restrictions as everyone should have the opportunity to experience the wonderful freedom that soaring through the sky brings.

No matter whether I am flying a 350 tonne aircraft out of Heathrow on my way to New York or a 1 tonne aircraft out of Gloucester, I am always excited and passionate about flying and soaring into the blue!

I look forward to welcoming you on board soon!

John Griffin

I have been involved in aviation since I left school. I joined the Royal Air Force from school as an aircraft engineer and completed 24 years service. During that time I took up flying Gliders and gained a Silver C certificate. I also became a gliding instructor. On being posted to Singapore I did not know if there was a gliding club there, so I converted my Silver C certificate to a Private Pilots Licence (PPL) which was relatively easy in those days. Having arrived in Singapore I found there was a Gliding club but no instructors, I then spent 4 years as CFI (Chief Flying Instructor) of the club and also flew light aircraft around Singapore Malaysia and Borneo.

Back in UK I was posted to Brize Norton where we formed a flying club which is still very active, I became a flying instructor with the Brize Club. On leaving the RAF I became the CFI of the Bristol Aero Club which was then at Filton until the airfield was closed. I am now the CFI of the Gryphon Aero Club at Kemble and having been teaching FSDP scholars both at Filton and Kemble. I became involved in FSDP about 12 years ago and have taught scholars each year (except 2020) since then. I have flown some 30 types of light aircraft and 3 have completed 4000 hours of instructing on fixed wing aircraft. I also hold a Helicopter licence.

Peter Shawe

I’ve always held an interest in aviation and wanted to fly, so after leaving school I joined the RAF as a ground engineer which was great fun though I soon realised I was probably better at bending aircraft than mending them, so I thought it a good idea to learn to fly and get my PPL, then commercial flying licences.

After leaving the RAF I joined DHL, flying throughout Europe mainly at night and instructing in my free time. After several years flying at night and in danger of turning into a bat I joined Virgin Atlantic and who, I’m very happy to say still fly for. I’ve been fortunate in flying various types of aircraft and maintained my instructors rating as there’s great reward and enjoyment in helping people achieve their goal of attaining their PPL.

After being introduced to FSDP, I count myself as being extremely fortunate in being part of a team that uses experience of life and aviation to help others achieve their dreams of freedom and independence in flying, and look forward to meeting new scholars and getting airborne!!

Liz Fox

FSDP has been a big part of my life since joining the team in 2010. I was a Medical Officer in the RAF for 10 years, then a GP in the NHS for 20 years, and I now work in a Children’s Hospice in Cornwall.

One of life’s joys has been learning to fly, and now even more to see the fulfilment and happiness that flying brings to the scholars at FSDP. The FSDP family is just that, and it is a privilege to be part of such a supportive, caring and friendly charity, that really does change all of our lives for the better, building lifelong friendships through the medium of flight and shared love of flying.

Stewart benzie

It is really good to be given the chance to ‘return to the fold’ of FSDP again. Once upon a time, I spent 6 years in the RAF Medical Branch, then 5 years in Saudi Arabia as a civilian Flight Surgeon with the RSAF. I then returned to the UK as a GP in Fairford, with a parallel career as an AME (authorised medical examiner)/Flight Surgeon for the CAA/ FAA, till retirement a couple of years ago.

For the last 10 years, I had the joy of being part of the team that is FSDP, which is really a big Very Special Family. Whatever role you play in it, FSDP changes lives – for the better. It is a great privilege to be part of it. So I’m delighted to be able to contribute again, in an advisory capacity.

Eleanor Ivory

I specialised in Accident and Emergency Medicine before training as both a commercial airline pilot and in aviation medicine, and have been a CAA Authorised Medical Examiner since 2004. Prior to that I was a First Officer for BMIBABY on the Boeing 737. I moved to the Airbus A320 in 2006 flying from Heathrow. Flying part-time has allowed a continuous active involvement in aviation medicine.

I served as Medical Adviser and Trustee for Flying Scholarships for Disabled People for 8 years and was involved with running the medical team and fundraising events for this wonderful charity. I moved to British Airways in July 2012 as a Senior First Officer on the A320, and will be moving to the A350 later this year, and I continue to run an independent medical practice as an Authorised Medical Examiner for the UK CAA.

Tim Prince

In 1979 fellow air trafficker Paul Bowen and I decided to make the annual Air Tattoo our full- time careers having been involved since its inception in 1971. In 1983 following the death of our volunteer Air Tattoo president Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader the year before, the Air Tattoo team established Flying Scholarships for the Disabled in his memory given all he had done for us over the years.

I retired from the Royal International Air Tattoo in 2014 and became an honorary Vice Patron. At the same time, I became a Vice Patron of the now FSDP. So many years of working with wonderfully upbeat and determined people who usually find a way to make things happen, often against all odds!

Tricia Nelmes

I first got involved with FSDP many years ago fundraising with BWPA friends. I was a trustee for seven years and, as a former instructor myself, I now head up our instructor committee which is a forum for all the flying schools involved with teaching our scholars to get together and to compare notes.

Each year I try to visit as many scholars as I can while on their courses and I just love seeing the smiles on their faces as they get to grips with the challenges of learning to fly and realise what they can achieve. Those of us who fly have all been there and know what it feels like!

Mel White

I have been in aerospace throughout my career, first with Hawker Siddley, then in suppliers to the major airframers. The last 20 years have been spent in the airborne special role equipment, mainly for helicopters. I was very fortunate to also be a company pilot for 15 years and flew throughout Europe on business, so I fully understand the freedom that flight brings and the benefits to scholars in achieving their wings.

I have since 2001 been involved in candidate selection of scholars, my goal has always been twofold, firstly to help put candidates at their ease during the interview process, and secondly, establish the benefits the candidate would gain from being awarded a scholarship.

Brod Pincott

My name is Brod Pincott and I am an aircraft assessor for FSDP. I passed my private pilots licence in 2015 at Gryphon Aero Club.

I have since gone on to pass my night rating, and have completed difference training for complex aircraft. I have been an aircraft assessor for FSDP since 2017, mainly because John Griffin makes me, and I’m scared of him.


Ross is going to send a bio in very soon!

Lou Buckley

I joined FSDP in March 2020, 3 days before the first lockdown!  This meant that I was unable to bear witness to a scholarship for my entire first year, but learnt all about them through speaking to ex-scholars and hearing their inspirational stories.   I used to run an Ultra Marathon company and a pre-pitched camping and glamping company, so events and organisation are in my blood.  I’m very much looking forward to the new challenges that FSDP will offer me, and can’t wait to meet everyone in person!

Viv Case

Hi, I have been a volunteer with FSDP for 8 years, helping to plan and deliver the Presentation Ceremony held during the Royal International Air Tattoo each year at RAF Fairford. On retiring from the Royal Air Force after 19 years’ service as an Air Traffic Control Officer, I wanted to continue my association with the flying community. Joining FSDP has allowed me to do just that. They have encouraged me to draw on my previous experience, but also to work outside my comfort zone in completing assignments.

I live close to the FSDP office popping in when called. I also help at the Scholars Seminar where I have the opportunity to meet and greet new scholars, whilst sharing news with those colleagues who also attend as part of the team. My daughter Abi helps as a volunteer, we are both always amazed and proud to hear about the achievement of the FSDP scholars who have all overcome so many obstacles in their lives and then have been inspired to learn to fly with FSDP. If you want a worthwhile charity to support in whatever way you can, the FSDP family will welcome and cherish you as it has us.

Pauline Gallagher

I am a Scholar from 2004 and have remained a supporter and fundraiser for FSDP ever since. I have been disabled since birth and have always wanted to fly, but I never thought I could be issued a flying medical so never felt able to pursue the dream. FSDP showed me a way forward. I have been a candidate mentor, and it has been a privilege to help others experience the same opportunities that I was afforded.

More recently I helped the Cumbernauld Air Cadets crew to come on board with FSDP and you’ll find us supporting the selections process and helping out at RIAT.

Mike Neil

I served all my life in the RAF as a pilot (Squadron Leader Michael J Neil MBE RAF (Ret’d).) I retired in 2001 but as a flying instructor I continued flying with the RAF Benson Flying Club. In 2005 my dear wife died and in 2006 I was recruited by your predecessor plus one, Sue Whitby who is an old friend. I joined Pete Thorn and Reg Masters at Kidlington to take the PA28 (G-BRTY) to Cranwell for the three day Assessment Board. The Company, at that time Oxford Aviation Training (OAT), provided the aircraft free of charge.

On return to Kidlington I was recruited by OAT as a flying instructor and am still on contract there but the Company now Oxford Aviation Academy (OAA). .Unfortunately OAA sold the PA28. I managed to get a PA 28 from the RAF Benson Flying Club for one year but that had be paid for. But I continued as an Aircraft Assessor and persuaded son Richard join a few years ago.

Oli Delany

When I was a trustee of the RAF Charitable Trust, we started sponsoring scholars in 2006 and I would attend the annual presentation ceremony at RIAT. I greatly admired the inspiring stories told by so many of the scholars and could readily see how FSDP was indeed changing lives through the medium of flight. Consequently, I was delighted to become a FSDP trustee in 2014.

During my years as a Turstee, I learned that the catalyst for change, fundamental though it is, is not just the flying. Rather it is the whole process starting with the initial application all the way through to the presentation of ‘Wings’. Each step along the way plays a part with lessons learned, achievements logged, staunch friendships made and self-confidence soaring. Those who then make the same commitment, to that which has carried them through the scholarship, to all other areas of their lives are the ones who benefit most.

The special ingredient that sustains those scholars is remaining in touch with FSDP and fellow scholars. They have the constant reminder of their achievements and all the evidence that they need that they can be, and do. so much more.

So I look forward to meeting you again through “The Big Wing’.

Julie Bull

I was the FSDP General Manager for over seven years until I retired in April 2020. During my time in the role I saw over 80 disabled people through the scholarship process. It was wonderful to see what a positive effect learning to fly had on on our scholar’s lives; improving their confidence and self-esteem. I made many great friends during my time with FSDP and intend to remain an active member of the FSDP family. I am looking forward to seeing friends old and new at the FSDP events, particularly the annual Presentation Ceremony.

Frances Lawrence

I began working as a volunteer in the office in May 2004 and until the virus put paid to my attendance did so regularly.  My task was to do basic office jobs freeing up the one paid worker for more involved activities.  I worked at first with Sue Whitby then with Julie Bull and hopefully, will before long see more of you.

Since we started seminars I have very much enjoyed being part of those days.  In Sue’s time I was also giving talks on the charity.

Seeing applicants journeys from the initial enquiry, through selection, to their training has made working for the charity really rewarding for me, I have been proud to take a small part.

My interested in aviation comes from my having been a Catering Officer in (what was then) the WRAF – but in those days you left on marriage!  I did spend 33 more years as an RAF wife.

Jan Wojciechowski

I only heard about FSDP through one of its long time instructors, who also had the bad luck to have me as a student. I thought at the time that it would be fun to get involved, even in a small way, and was really excited to be asked to become an aircraft assessor for the organisation. I’d always been keen on flying, my father had been an RAF pilot and this seemed a great way to help out.

The first thing I was told was ‘find out how we can, not why we can’t’ and FSDP really does exemplify that philosophy. Seeing the determination with which students have restored their confidence and joy for life, helped by an organisation that is dedicated to making that happen has been more than fun. It’s been a privilege.

Richard Neil

I started my flying career from a young age sitting with Mike in a Chipmunk aircraft flying around Berlin. 8 years old! I joined the Army Air Corps in 1987 as a helicopter pilot and had a fantastic time. I then trained as a Airline pilot and spent the last 20 years with Thomas Cook until they went into liquidation in 2019.

Now helping out with the NHS. I felt honoured and privileged to be asked to be a aircraft assessor with FSDP and have been involved for about 5 years. Meeting the scholars is always great fun and fascinating to see the transformation in their characters. It can be a very humbling experience but inspiring at the same time watching them achieve their wings. As aircraft assessors our role is very enjoyable as it’s the first time the scholars get to sit in the aircraft and have a play with the controls.

Tony Cann

I count myself very lucky in a 30 year RAF career to have flown some wonderful aircraft and worked around the world with some even more wonderful and inspiring people. A while ago my brother-in-law benefited so much from the award of a scholarship and this inspired me to get involved with the charity, initially as an aircraft assessor to help work out what assistance or modifications our scholars may need in order to fly light aircraft.

I am honoured to have served 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. I hope to continue the great work of all those who have been before, and continue to be involved in this amazing enterprise.

Janet Bowen

FSDP is special to me in so many ways. I feel very privileged to be able to play a part in the selection of scholars each year, and then watch them go on to accomplish a flying scholarship.

The transformation they go through from Cranwell to the Air Tattoo is amazing to witness, and I know that Paul, like me, would be incredibly proud.

Simon Harris

I am a presenter of a current affairs programme called The Late Debate, and ITV News London’s political correspondent. I obtained my private pilot’s licence in America in 1995 and fly a vintage Piper Cub.

Keith Bayliss

I am currently a Vice President and an ex-Chairman of FSDP.  Having spent many years in the Royal Navy and then British Airways as a pilot.

It was whilst I was at BA that I joined the Flight Crew Customer First Team which took the mobile simulator out to events and Air Shows.  It was this team that were the recipients of a presentation from the FSDP Manager and a scholar, after FSDP approached BA for funding.

I served as a Trustee for several years, loving the selection process, the interaction with the scholars, and seeing lives change as scholars involved themselves in their courses. My fellow Trustees invited me to become Chairman, which was a great honour, although my allotted time as a Trustee expired in 2017, and I stood down. The Trustees kindly invited me to continue my involvement as Vice President, and I love to involve myself with all things and people FSDP.

Jon Ager

I knew from an early age that I wanted to have a career in aviation. Despite underwhelming academic credentials, the RAF offered me that opportunity and I enjoyed an amazing career for over 30 years as a navigator, flying globally. For 20 of those years, I was fortunate to be part of the RIAT volunteer team, and latterly as a VP of the RAF Charitable Trust Enterprise. Throughout that time, I saw at first hand the remarkable impact that FSDP had on so many people whose lives were changed by the same experience of flight that I had taken for granted.

When I left the RAF in 2015, I remained in the aviation industry and worked with a charity to promote flying and engineering careers in aviation to a broad audience. I also supported an aviation outreach programme with Kingston University. Now on the fringes of aviation, albeit working with British Antarctic Survey to procure a new aircraft and to modify our Antarctic runway, I feel privileged to join FSDP as a Trustee. I still feel as passionate about aircraft and aviation today as I did as a teenager, and I look forward to sharing that passion with friends, old and new.


A much loved career as a Royal Air Force Policewoman was cut short through illness and I was medically discharged. So in 2014, when the opportunity of a FSDP scholarship came along I felt very fortunate indeed.

Being a mentor has definitely been one of the most rewarding roles. By far the best benefit has been the people and friendships I’ve made.

Matthew Monaghan

I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at birth. I lived a very stable life up until 2015 when I suffered a dramatic deterioration. I discovered FSDP during this time which was the lowest point in my life. I was awarded a scholarship in 2017 and have gone from strength to strength since.

Since then I have been heavily involved with the charity becoming a mentor to future candidates. My involvement has allowed me to meet some incredible people and I am forever grateful. My scholarship gave me the confidence to return to full time work and I even got promoted!

Dawn Geer

I medically retired from a career I loved, as a Theatre Practitioner and Anaesthetic Sister in 2010. Struggling with that loss, my confidence declined and I developed a desperate fear of flying. I became a scholar in 2017 and faced my fear with plenty of support from marvellously patient flying Instructors.

I not only recovered from a phobia but actually began to love flying! I gained such a wonderful sense of achievement, an increase in my self-esteem and made many new friends. Being a mentor means I get to see the FSDP magic turn candidates into accomplished scholars, transforming their lives.

Claire White

I was very lucky to be awarded my scholarship in 2016 and was sponsored by The Red Arrows. This came at a very pivotal moment in my life when I was coping with the loss of my husband and learning how to live on my own with Multiple Sclerosis.

I learnt so much about myself in those 3 weeks and not only about flying. I came away knowing that I now had a new set of life skills, life was waiting for anything that I dared to try! Disability knew no boundaries. I’ve made life long friends through FSDP and am very honoured to be given the opportunity to give something back to the Charity in the form of being a mentor and helping new applicants to achieve their dreams.

kerry shaw

My name is Kerry Ann Shaw. I am a 2017 scholar and I was extremely lucky to be  sponsored by my favourite flying team, the Red Arrows.  I love flying, when I get the opportunity to get up in the air. It’s a good feeling, very exhilarating and truly amazing. 

I have six children and two grandchildren which keep me extremely busy. I also have two adorable dogs, Bertie and Floki.  I love the outdoors and meeting new people, and I enjoy many different crafts and learning something new.  Most of all I love to volunteer and give back to others. 

Tom Toolan

After suffering an accident  in 2009 leaving me paralysed, I fought hard to try and rebuild my life and gain some sense of independence and purpose. Having a love of flying I was amazed to discover that it was possible for a wheelchair user to learn how to fly a plane. I applied for a scholarship with FSDP and was extremely fortunate to be offered mine in 2017. 

It is an incredible experience and introduced me to an amazing team of people who run and guide through the application process and scholarship making great friends with the team and fellow scholars.


I am now studying a BA in History and Politics with the Open University and am very privileged to assist as a mentor for new applicants to FSDP, helping new candidates through the application process and sharing in the amazing experiences of the journey of a FSDP scholarship.



My mane is Alvin and I live in the West Midlands with my wife and 2 children. I enjoy playing the drums and love being a family man.

I lost my leg in a motorcycle accident which totally changed my life.  I ended up losing my job and my home and became bankrupt. For a few years I really struggled to rebuild my life while retraining in a new career.

I was concerned that, because my children came along after the crash, they would only see me as a disabled Dad, as they see me at my most vulnerable and weakest.
I came across the FSDP and as I had always had a dream of flying, I applied for a scholarship and thought how wonderful it could be that my kids might see me as somebody who can land a plane… rather than somebody who sometimes needs crutches.

I was incredibly fortunate to have been awarded my scholarship in 2019 and those three weeks changed my life in ways I never thought possible. I have a newfound confidence which I have been able to use in my career and I have even done a little bit of motivational talking for a corporate company.

I am now very excited to be a mentor and assist the new lucky candidates through their FSDP journey. I am also a Volunteer Visitor for the Limbless Association. 

albert thomson

Joining the Armed Forces at 18 years of age, I served a number of Tours and Conflicts.  Unfortunately, age 33, in Iraq in 2003, I was taken out.  Brought back to life 3 times, amongst other injuries I suffered the loss of my left leg above the knee.  Everything I had dreamt of accomplishing went out the window.  However, two charities came forward and showed me that was not the case.  FSDP came into my life in the middle of the pandemic and despite all the pitfalls of lockdowns and working from home, I was offered a scholarship with them.

It was a turning point in my life when I needed it most.  I started learning to fly, something I had always dreamt of, but most importantly mixing with other people with other disabilities and a great team leading the charity.  FSDP is now a huge part of my life as I look forward to being a mentor for other disabled people, showing them life really does go on.

For now, with the help of a military charity I am able to continue to learn to fly and hope to achieve my PPL in the next year.