Michael - Flying High at Aerobility

Recent FSDP Scholar, Michael Holden, recently spent three weeks with us at Aerobility. Here, he shares his story:

"I’m sure that I am not alone in the feeling of being overwhelmed at being selected to receive a scholarship from FSDP in 2013 and those that have gone before. My whole family were so very excited at the prospect and the opportunity that had been afforded me.

It became real at the presentation day, when we were all invited to attend RIAT and what was special was the feeling that Jennifer and the children were included and welcomed warmly on that memorable day.

I was to undertake my scholarship with Aerobility at Blackbushe Airport in the South East of England and this began for me on the 19th August 2013. I opted to take my car, which with the hand controls fitted gave me much more independence than traveling by other means and using public transport.

Aerobility were very welcoming and discussed my planned flying over the coming weeks, giving me a sense of ease and structure to the training ahead. I used just under 17 hours of my flying time, with flying taking place most days except on Sundays and the Bank Holiday weekend. The Bank Holiday was mainly due to poor weather on the Saturday as flying had been scheduled and the unavailability of flying on the Monday itself. However, these times were made good use of by way of learning for the examinations that I took. It also by co-incidence allowed me time to catch up with a few present and former scholars who were close by in terms of driving and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed their company and catching up with their own progress and sharing my experiences. Susie and Rosemary, kindly came to visit me during my training, which was a nice surprise.

The training at Aerobility was always thorough with a pre-flight briefing before every lesson and debrief following. Day by day I was learning something new and what at first seemed insurmountable soon became a thing of the past. James was my main instructor and we struck up a friendship and understanding that made my experience better for it. He was always conscious that the training never became too tiring and was very keen that I took as many exams as possible as he felt I had the aptitude for it. James was also instrumental in helping me with this process, constantly asking probing questions to ensure I was keeping up-to-date with the relevant subject. I managed to complete and pass 3 exams and prepared for a fourth, although time ran out and I wasn’t able to complete this – I have since arranged to take it at my local airfield.

A journalist and photographer also came to visit me so that they could prepare an article for the Motor Neurone Disease Magazine, this is the disease which led to my disability. This was arranged by Julie and should be published towards the end of September. My medical flight test was done on the same day and Dr Liz Fox very kindly sorted out the necessary paperwork so that I could begin my circuit training. In the final week I spent two days with a different instructor who went through the rudiments of circuit flying and succeeded in getting me to a good level. The following day I had a visit from Julie who was keen to know how I was getting on and was interested to know about my experiences both at Aerobility and in the Travelodge; that same afternoon James concentrated on the landing stage of the circuit before telling me he had every confidence that I was more than capable of flying solo. On Thursday 5th September 2013 I made my very first call to Blackbushe Information reporting that Student Golf- Bravo Sierra Yanky Yanky was ready for departure. I will never forget the mixture of emotions from the moment I accelerated along the runway for take-off to the tear of joy that I shed as I taxied back to Aerobility after I had landed. Everyone at Aerobility were waiting to greet me, all with beaming faces, cameras and outstretched hands of congratulations.

The day after the weather was inclement again and flying wasn’t possible, however Mike, CEO of Aerobility asked if I would like to go to an open day at Goodwood Airfield being organised for disabled military personnel, by a charity known as Battle Back. I had a great experience here telling dozens of service personnel of my experience of flying thanks to FSDP and Aerobility. I encouraged all of them to make contact with both if they had an interest in flying themselves.

On my final day I volunteered in an open day at Aerobility who were taking a group of disabled children on flying experiences. It was so heart-warming to share in their enjoyment and thrill at flying and all of the parents were keen to hear of my experiences of FSDP and the journey I had been on. It gave me so much pleasure to wave the flag for the charity on both occasions.

I would also like to mention the friendships that I made whilst at Aerobility, other volunteers who were regulars at the training school. I was entertained in the evening by other flying instructors and former commercial pilots and NATS personnel. I received invitations to visit NATS Swanick and Heathrow, as well as an invitation to go flying in Germany. Sue, who runs the office at Aerobility was particularly friendly and ensured I was where I ought to be at every moment of the day. All of them took me for a farewell drink and I was interviewed on camera about my experiences.

The three weeks I spent with Aerobility will never be forgotten and have certainly developed lasting friendships and opened up doors for new experiences, both at home and abroad. I cannot express adequately enough in words my thanks to FSDP and everyone involved for the path I have rolled during those three amazing weeks. Suffice to say that I have already made plans to continue the training in a hope to complete what FSDP started, by way of showing appreciation for the finance they invested in me. I would also like to take up any opportunity I may, which would further the cause of FSDP and help them grow stronger and so by allow others to enjoy the same exhilarating feelings which have been my privilege to experience during my FSDP Scholarship 2013."

It was a pleasure to welcome Michael into the Aerobility family! We hope to see him again soon!

Michael's blog can also be found at http://trip-ability.com/flying-high-part-2/
Photographs used with thanks to AntonyoxleyPhotography.
Geri BurtonComment