WOW…. What a year this has been for our Flying Scholarships for Disabled People’s charity – and one that will remain long in our memories. It is with huge gratitude and thanks to all those connected with FSDP that our 40th anniversary year proved to be a great success on a number of fronts.
Following our initial review of the 2023 FSDP scholarship applications, once again we were privileged to make our final scholar selections at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire in March this year thanks to the generosity of the Royal Air Force. Our sincere thanks go to the RAF personnel, including the Air Cadets, for their support in making this happen and providing applicants with an amazing experience over 3 days.
Following this year’s seminar at the home of the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, when the seven successful scholars got the chance to learn more about their scholarships and meet their instructors, the journey of a lifetime for Waqas Ali, Anthony George, Steve Chalk, Jim Dinsdale, Caroline Lightfoot, Andy Rayner and Angie Shori began across our 3 airfields at Gloucester, Turweston and Compton Abbas. Two other scholars, Sharyn and Hayley, also successfully completed their 2022 FSDP scholarships at Bristol Aero Club with John and Debs this year.
For those of you who might have missed it, Jim let us have exclusive access to his scholarship diary – if you didn’t see it at the time, you can re-live it here:
Jim’s Diary Day 1 – FSDP
Jim’s Diary – Part Deux – FSDP
Jim’s Journey – Part 3 – FSDP
Jim’s Journey – Part 4 – FSDP
Jim’s Final Blog – FSDP
This year, 3 of our ex-scholars gained their PPL’s – congratulations to Simon Gillespie-Khan, Albert Thomson and Jim Dinsdale.
40th Birthday Celebrations
The main focus in 2023 (our 40th Anniversary) was to increase awareness of the FSDP charity wherever and whenever possible. It all started with our ‘Big Wing Tour’ around the UK. Our incredible flying instructors, together with Lou and FSDP Trustees, organised flying legs (accompanied by bespoke ‘flying bears’!) that covered the length and breadth of the United Kingdom – with some local TV networks eager to feature our ambitions and successes. Our amazing 2022 scholar, Abi Evans, also featured on Chris Evan’s Breakfast Show – complete with a Red Arrows flying suit….. (Thanks to Adam, our ‘Red Leader’ for arranging that one)!Abi also featured on BBC’s Points West TV News at the end of April along with FSDP flying instructor, John Sorsby, highlighting the charity’s work as it celebrated its 40th anniversary. The same news then filtered through to the West Midlands TV news channels! If that wasn’t enough TV media coverage, former scholars, Pauline, Elaine and Sharyn, also got involved in June – getting more valuable airtime with STV in Scotland!
A report from the Northern Wing
by Alex Krol
This year saw quite a few changes for disabled aviation within the North West. Unfortunately, Aerobility’s operation came to an end at Ravenair. With 6 years under its belt, it’s time for the hand controls and wheelchair hoist to move onto a different part of the country. One of the recurring issues were access to an aircraft as and when we needed it for flying days etc. But, as one door shuts, another door opens. Tim McKay has a very well-maintained PA-28 (G-CPTM). Tim has been aware of FSDP for several years through Ian Revell but has never had the opportunity to support us. Well, we put the call out and Tim accepted our challenge. We now have an aircraft with fully fitted hand controls ready to fly the disabled community whenever we need it. Which gives us great flexibility for 2024 and beyond. This also means that leg 7 of the Big Wing Tour which has yet to take place (around the north west of England, will now be completed in early April. Special thanks go to Ian Revell for being the middleman and connecting me with Tim. The team at Keenair have gone above and beyond to welcome us to our new home. Special thanks also to David Harris of TOR Financial Consulting based in Norfolk for answering our call on social media to complete our hand control kit. This also means I’m also back in the air after 14 months of being grounded, which feels amazing. Didn’t realise how much I missed aviation! As we look forward, we have made plans with Liverpool University to access and use their flying simulators. First session will be at the end of February. Then Southport Spinal Unit, then BLESMA later on in the year. All in all, things are looking promising, and the future is looking bright for this part of the world.
Thanks to some incredible ‘fast ball’, last minute negotiations by FSDP and RIAT personnel, the annual FSDP ceremony at RIAT in July was made even more special. Despite some unwelcome inclement weather, the huge RIAT crowds were treated to a unique flypast on the Sunday, in an anniversary salute featuring a Piper PA-28 Warrior in close formation with the Royal Jordanian Falcons – the Royal Jordanian Air Force’s Aerobatic Team based at King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba, Jordan. HRH Prince Feisal Ibn Al-Hussein is the current Patron of FSDP; proudly following in his Father King Hussein’s footsteps following the latter’s death in 1999. Our thanks also go to Turweston Flying Club for the loan of their PA-28 for the flypast and to Display Pilot Sam Watmough for flying as fast as possible!At this year’s FSDP RIAT ceremony, in addition to scholars’ ‘Wings’ and certificates being awarded to scholars, the 2022 trophy winners were also announced. These were as follows:
Wings Around the World: Jane Shelton
George Stewart Memorial Trophy: Zak Rassam
Douglas Bader Trophy: Hayley Budge.
Particular thanks should go to some exceptional fundraisers in 2023 – Abi Evans and Hayley Budge have each raised in excess of £10,000 for FSDP, and also to Kerry to wing-walking on our behalf! They are all inspirational ambassadors for the charity, and have our enormous thanks for their efforts to date.In addition to the continued valuable financial sponsorship support from FSDP’s existing sponsors, we were also delighted to receive confirmation of two new sponsors – James Rao, Live Your Dream, and the Jon Ingram Trust for 2024 and which will change two more lives for the better next year.
Following an initiative led by our Chairman Guy Bowen, together with Trustees Ian Revell and John Sorsby, FSDP received £7,000 each from the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust and Marshall Group to kick-start our new FSDP bursary scheme, something that sponsorship permitting) we hope to continue in the coming years. Hayley and Lee were delighted when the news advising they were to be the first recipients of this new scheme was received – aimed at taking them further as they ‘Reach for the Sky’!Our thanks again to John and Debs at Bristol Aero Club for taking on this extra instruction and both were delighted to announce that Lee and Hayley have each now flown solo! A truly amazing achievement by everyone involved, we look forward to their continuing journey – here’s what they have to say about their experience so far…
I was awarded the bursary award at RIAT 2023 by the RAF charitable trust. It was unexpected and a massive honour for me.
I was happy to use the bursary funds with the amazing instructors John Sorsby and Deb Ford who were my instructors on my scholarship in September 2022.
We were due to start in September 2023 and I was really nervous as I hadn’t been flying in a year, but when we got back into it I was really surprised how much came back to me from the scholarship the previous year.
We were making great progress and were visiting Gloucester once a month to continue our flying journey and I was really happy with how me and Hayley (who was also awarded a bursary) were progressing.
Over the 4 times we have visited we have passed a few ground school exams. It has been so rewarding to do this as I have not done anything academic since my spinal injury 8 years ago. It has been a challenge but a really enjoyable one at the same time.
Then our most recent time we visited we went solo! A truly unbelievable moment for me and my family, to think I have taken a plane to 1000 feet, completed a circuit and landed it all by myself is an achievement I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. Absolutely over the moon to get it done before Christmas/New Year – literally the best way to end 2023.
We’re next due to go down to Gloucester late January so now I’m going to compose myself and re-focus, enjoy Christmas and hopefully carry on with the same progress in the early months of the New Year.
Massive thanks to RAF Charitable Trust for sponsoring me, FSDP, our instructors John Sorsby and Deb Ford, and everyone involved who made this possible. The motivation and purpose it’s giving me to achieve something so big since my injury is truly a blessing and I’m so grateful for it.
It came as a huge shock to answer the phone call from John where he said that both me and Lee had been chosen to receive a further bursary to continue learning to fly. I was totally overwhelmed! This lit a new fire in me though, one where I was determined more than ever to make the absolute most of the kindness and generosity shown to me.
From here I had to decide where to continue my flying lessons and having weighed everything up I chose to continue learning with Debra and John down at Bristol Aero Club based at Gloucestershire Airport. Although this means a 1000 mile round trip, every month, travelling to and from the Orkney Islands, it has certainly been worthwhile with many new friends made along the way.
Lee has been a brilliant and supportive flying buddy, doing all of the driving to and from the club when we’re down south for our lessons. It’s also really good just having someone to chat to who is also going through the ground school exams and flying lessons at the same time.
I think it’s safe to say the highlight so far was Monday the 11th of December 2023… The day that BOTH Lee and me did our first solo flights!
In 2011 I was told “you’re not going to fly”, that has now changed with a massive thank you to our instructors John Sorsby & Debra Ford and of course to FSDP and Marshall Group for making this dream come true.
Never forget the dream – always reach for the sky!
Thank you kindly, Hayley
As many of you will be aware, we’ve just launched the FSDP App, which will keep you all updated with news and special events as they happen, as well as scholar information and progress, details of the work done by FSDP, as well as a chat room and lounge area. So, spread the word and don’t forget to visit our FSDP online shop, which you can also access using the app. Here’s how to log on…
We have two major fundraising initiatives planned for 2024…
For the first half of the year (pre-RIAT), we will be launching the SCRAMBLE 100, co-ordinated by our scholar Hayley, with the aim of raising £10,000 for the charity. We need 100 members of the family to join us in raising £100 each – more info to follow.
The second part of the year (post-RIAT) will be devoted to ‘Row the Runways’, co-ordinated by our scholar Pauline. Developed from the Run the Runways event that happened during Lockdown, Row the Runways will aim to virtually visit, and row the length of, most of the tarmacked runways in Britain. Why row? Because I can’t run, but I used a rowing machine to stay sane in the lockdowns.
There are over 200 runways and 200 kilometres to visit and row. The challenge will start at RIAT and everyone will be able to follow, sponsor and support. You could even join in through whatever mode of movement you fancy! More info to follow….
SEE YOU IN 2024!