Introducing: The Bader Bus Company
Aerobility has spent the last 25 years removing barriers making it possible for people to participate in a variety of aviation-related activities regardless of their disability. In their quest to continue to provide more and more challenging experiences, Aerobility aspired to form a flying display team made up of people with disabilities – the first of its kind in the UK.
Charley Bickers of the Douglas Bader Foundation (DBF) wanted to do something in honour of his grandfather, Sir Douglas Bader, who famously defended the nation during the Battle of Britain despite being a double amputee.
The magic of flight brought Aerobilty and the DBF together to form The Bader Bus Company, a three-man display team flying Piper PA-28 Warrior aircraft.
‘Big Ideas don’t happen overnight, and this is a very ambitious project’ Charley explained. ‘Even just selecting the pilots has been a long process. Initially we began with thirteen very capable disabled pilots, and we knew that only the best and most experienced pilots would make it through to the final team’.
Jon Windover, Vice-Chairman of Aerobility said ‘the operational aspects of this project have broken new ground, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granted Display Authorisations to the three team members last month, creating the UK’s first ever display team made up of disabled aviators. Safety comes first, as does the ability to demonstrate aptitude, airmanship and the necessary cognitive skills to pilot the aircraft in this type flying.
Meet the team
Mike Wildman, Team Captain
Mike has a decorated flying career. As a former RAF pilot, he saw service in the first Gulf War, Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda. For the last 20 years he has been flying for Virgin Atlantic where he is currently employed part time as a Captain. As a result of a serious motorcycle accident in 2000, numerous failed operations, a deteriorating ability to walk and constant and increasing pain, Mike underwent a below knee amputation on his left leg in January 2017. After recently recieving medical clearance, Mike is now the world's first disabled long-haul commercial pilot.
Barry has a wealth of flying experience behind him. He joined the RAF in 1969 and has flown a range of aircraft, including Whirlwind, Puma, Wessex, Chinook, Gazelle and Jet Ranger. In the 1990 he suffered a significant spinal injury in the Falklands, but using Douglas Bader’s own story, he demonstrated to the Medical Board that despite his disability, he could still fly. The RAF kept him on, and in 2005 he retired and joined the Aerobility charity as an ambassador.
Alan’s dream is to become a commercial pilot. He was injured in motorcycle accident and began flying three days after getting his first prosthetic leg. He still rides his bike, (it’s the first love of his life). Alan was chosen to fly a Spitfire by Prince Harry- the first amputee to do so since Douglas Bader. He has worked for the RAF for 19 years as an aircraft technician.