Veteran hopes to take fellow wounded, injured and sick heroes to the skies
A Liverpool veteran who was paralysed from the waist down after a motorbike accident has found a new lease of life by taking to the skies – and hopes to instil fellow veterans with the same passion for flying.
Alex Krol, 33, of Formby, has credited the charity Help for Heroes with supporting him in his recovery after his accident in 2005, which led to the end of his military career with the Royal Marines. The Charity has provided him with more than £18,000 in grants.
Paralysed from the chest down with serious spinal injuries, Alex is a full-time wheelchair user but he never gave up on his dream to pilot an aircraft.
He said: “I was gutted to leave the Marines. I was young, ambitious and having the time of my life before my career was cut short.
“After the accident, I was in a bad way for a couple of years but I soon realised I was still fit and I tried as many activities as possible. I still had that ‘can do’ mentality that is instilled in every recruit throughout Commando training.”
In 2008, Alex applied for a scholarship with Flying Scholarships for the Disabled. He went to RAF Cranwell and was lucky enough to get a full scholarship for 45 hours flying in South Africa to do his private pilot’s licence.
Currently Alex has to travel from Liverpool to London to use a plane especially adapted for disabled people to fly but hopes soon that hand-controls will be ready to fit to a plane at Liverpool John Lennon airport.
He then plans to introduce flying to other disabled veterans in the area, through flying school Ravenair.
Alex said: “Flying gives me an amazing buzz. Being disabled, there are not many thrills in life but this is definitely one of them.
“Flying a plane is hard enough. But wheeling up to a plane knowing the spotters are looking over my shoulder thinking ‘but where's that bloke’s instructor’ gives me a great kick. I'm hoping others will take my lead and join me one day.”
Alex is actively involved with disabled flying charity called Aerobility.
He said: “We are hoping to host Help for Hero Flying days throughout 2016 for wounded injured or sick personnel to come and try their hand at flying. Hoists and winches will be available to enter and exit the plane for those with limited mobility like myself.”
Mike Miller-Smith, Aerobility Chief Executive, said: “Aerobility exists to make aviation accessible to all, whatever the disability, and our close partnership with Help for Heroes is effective in making participation in flying and aviation activities accessible to the wounded, injured and sick military community.
“Flying is not just great fun, but, in the background, it also helps re-instill confidence and skills for those that participate.
“It is a privilege for Aerobility to support Alex in his flying goals. His enthusiasm is infectious, he has a great aptitude for flight, and we look forward to working with him to bring accessible flying to Liverpool and the North West.”
Alex, who is from Aintree and went to Maricourt School in Maghull, said staying positive and getting involved with sports and fitness has been the key to his recovery.
He is a wheelchair skills trainer with the charity Whizz Kids and goes into schools and hospitals to teach people how to become more proficient in using their wheelchairs. Help for Heroes funded him with a light weight wheelchair to help him deliver these sessions.
Alex is a member of Help for Heroes Band of Brothers, network, which provides life-long support to those with a career limiting/ending injury or illness attributable to service.
He said: “Help for Heroes has really supported me. They have awarded me a number of grants and I have been away on several events with the Charity, such as the Wounded Warrior Soldier NYC Ride 2015. I also took part in a flight simulation day with Band of Brothers at the University of Liverpool, which was a fantastic experience.
“Help for Heroes has also helped me out with one or two flying courses as well as a lot of sports equipment.”
Alex is also a keen skier and is a member of the Armed Forces Para Snowsports Team, representing his country at the highest level. The Help for Heroes Quick Reaction Fund provided a grant for Alex for a carbon-fibre-sit-ski. The ultra-keen athlete also takes part in triathlons and did the Help for Heroes Hero Ride in 2015, using his specially adapted handbike, funded by his former unit.
Bryn Parry, CEO and Co-founder of Help for Heroes said: “Help for Heroes is proud to be supporting Alex as he rebuilds his life beyond injury.
“We understand that no recovery journey follows the same path which is why it so important that a holistic, individual approach to support is available.“We are excited to follow Alex’s progress with his flying and are committed to supporting him, and all those who have been injured in the line of duty, for life.”