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Meet our flyers

Read the stories of how our flyers came to Aerobility and their aspirations for the future.

Mark Bartlett

 

Mark Bartlett

I was medically discharged from the Navy in 2004 (aged 23 years) with severe back and neck injuries following a powerboat crash whilst in service and have been in pain every day since. Two years ago, my back gave out and I temporarily lost the use of my legs - I have always been very active and self-reliant, so this was a huge blow. After joining Help for Heroes, Band of Brothers I was introduced to Aerobility, which was incredible, as I've always wanted to fly!

I get such a buzz from flying and have found my drive and ambition to achieve again. When I was out of work and living on benefits I felt so restricted – now my world has now opened up. The freedom I feel in the air helps me manage my pain and it feels so great to be using my brain again. My flying scholarship is an opportunity I never thought I would have and I know that if I push myself I can become a commercial pilot.’ 

If you would like to read more about Mark's journey, please click the link to our blog below: 

AerobilityBlog

 

 

Mark Sines

After serving as an Infantryman for 6 years I was medically discharged with degenerative spinal disease.  I suffered paralysis 6 years ago and I took a year to learn to walk again after 4 operations.  At this stage my wife remembered by childhood dream of flying and she bought me a trial flight at Aerobility.  I enjoyed it so much I had 4 more lessons and then successfully applied for a grant from Help 4 Heroes. 

During the week I look forward to my flying lesson and when I have a bad week and have been in a lot of pain just sitting in the aeroplane makes my day.  I have control over something; it’s not just medical professionals telling me what I can and can’t do.

I have now completed over 40 hours flying and have also completed a solo flight.  My ambition is to gain my commercial pilot rating so I can become an instructor teaching people with disabilities to fly. 

If you would like to read more about Mark's journey, please click the link to our blog below: 

AerobilityBlog

 

Paul Spanner

I served with the Royal Marines for over 27 years and was medically discharged in 2015 as a result of a near fatal break to my neck from riding with the Royal Navy Royal Marines Cycling Team.

Despite my very serious injuries I was walking within 3 days of surgery and riding a bike 9 weeks later.

I had many complications and I began a long period of recovery.  During this dark period I joined the Team GB Paralympic Development Cycling Squad as well as skiing for the Armed Forces Para Snowsport Team.  In the background Aerobility has been a critical enabler in my recovery.  I have now completed over 50 hours flying and have flown solo.

I have always been a very confident person but through the art of learning to fly with Aerobility I have gained confidence in new areas and flying has increased my well-being and enjoyment of life. 

If you would like to read more about Mark's journey, please click the link to our blog below: 

AerobilityBlog

 

Cliff O’Farrell

Cliff is learning to fly not just one but two aircraft.  He is aiming for his Commercial Helicopter Pilot Licence as well as undertaking training modules to be a Commercial Fixed Wing Pilot. 

After serving in the Household Cavalry, Cliff was wounded in in action in Afghanistan in 2009.  Suffering extremely serious injuries after an explosion, he took nearly 4 years and countless operations to recover and rehabilitate.  Not being able to serve anymore Cliff had a Group Aviation Experience and Trial flight followed by intensive flight training here at Aerobility. After more treatment he gained a scholarship through H4H to gain his PPL which he completed in just 45 hours.

Originally seen as a challenge and a way to prove himself, he treated his flight training as a job and hopes that it will continue in to a career.

If you would like to read more about Cliff's journey, please click on our blog below:

 AerobilityBlog

 

Simon Hallam

‘When I am in the cockpit none of my problems matter.  In fact the higher I am off the ground the less bothered I am about everything.’

After being diagnosed with PTSD in 2004 Simon’s confidence took an unexpected knock so much so that moving through the ranks of the Army seemed doubtful.

He came to flying through H4H who invited Simon to an experience day at Aerobility.  During the day he found out more about the opportunities available to him.  After successfully applying for a scholarship Simon is now working towards his PPL.

He says that his flying has been life changing and his wife has noticed a real positive difference in him.

 

If you would like to read more about Simon's journey, please click the link to our blog below: 

AerolitiyBlog

 

 

Christian Saleta 

‘I still can’t believe it, my biggest dream is true now’ 

Christian has always been ambitious.  Following complications at birth Christian was born with physical disabilities, unfortunately these complications have proved difficult for Christian throughout his life, especially proving difficult when looking for work in the fields of aviation and automotive.  However throughout all of the upheaval in his life Christian had a big dream to become a pilot.  However, he always felt this dream was impossible and struggling to come to terms with this, he started to substitute this dream with working with fast cars. 

This all changed in 2013 when Christian was searching the internet and fell upon Aerobility. This once impossible dream finally felt possible. Christian felt inspired when he saw fellow Aerobility flyer Nathan Doidge, who suffers from the same disability as him, being given the opportunity to fly planes. Christian explains that seeing this gave him hope thinking ‘If he can do it, I can do it!’. 

2 months ago Christian had the opportunity through Aerobility to undertake his first solo flight, saying the event was incredible, ‘When you line up with the runway, you see all the lights, and you feel the power, there is so much freedom, you can put things behind you’. Aerobility has also enabled Christian to improve his motor skills through handling the controls of the plane.

 The next step for Christian is to get his licence, which would enable him to fly the route that has always been a life-long goal for him which is to fly down the Alps into France and then on to Spain. 

‘Aerobility has made my biggest dream come true and I still can’t believe it’. 

 

Stuart Thompson 

‘If you think you are disabled then you are. People here are so positive, they blur the boundaries’.

In 2002 after 15 years in the Police force Stuart suffered a brain infection, the result of this meant that he was left with impaired motor skills. Having to give up his job he suffered a loss of identity and place in society whilst trying to adjust to his new position. Stuart commented that you have a sense of self-worth which is generated by what you do, always in a position of caring for others through his profession, he had suddenly found himself in a position where he himself had to be cared for by others.

Adjusting to this Stuart commented on the process he went through starting with anger, then grievance and finally to the acceptance stage. Being very active before the brain infection, meant slowing down his body clock was difficult. Stuart came across Aerobility 4 years ago when we had a stand at Farnborough Airshow, another year went past before Stuart made contact. After a trial flight, he was hooked straight away, Aerobility helped Stuart realize that the sky’s the limit. 

Although having to self-fund the flying himself, Stuart has found friendship, enjoyment and an increased feeling of self-worth from Aerobility. He manages to get out and fly on average every two weeks, commenting on how lovely the people are at Aerobility. Before Aerobility Stuart had refined himself to a boring life but now he pushes boundaries that he never thought would be possible before, ‘If I can fly, what else can I do?’  ‘Disability is a mind set.  If you think you are disabled then you are, people here are so positive, they blur the boundaries.' 

Aerobility has changed Stuart’s perspectives and given him confidence to try other things. Due to this Stuart is working towards being able to fly solo, whilst the co-ordination learnt through flying positively impacting on other aspects of his life.