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Flying For Freedom Round Britain Flight

Flying For Freedom Round Britain Flight

Press Release: 15th June 2015

Double amputee achieves a UK first by leading an aircraft flight around Britain in under 10 days

A team of wounded service personnel have successfully flown around the UK, becoming the first disabled pilots to navigate the British coastline in a fleet of microlights.

Above the knee double amputee Capt Luke Sinnott led the unique challenge, “Round Britain Flight”, demonstrating how flying creates a sense of freedom for those with physical disabilities and can inspire other injured or wounded servicemen and women to learn to fly.

The microlights departed from Cotswold Airport at 1500hrs on the 7th June and completed the 2,000 mile route in 9 days. The trip was not without drama, with two of the five microlights having to be left behind in the first two days due to technical difficulties.

The remaining microlights each carried two people and the pilots rotated seats, making over 20 stops and overflying some of the UK’s most remote landscape, including an overflight of Ben Nevis.

Capt Sinnott planned the trip to highlight the importance of post-injury activities as part of a long term recovery programme. Upon finishing at 17.15 GMT, Tuesday 15th June 2015, he said:

“I spent 6 months organising the flight and I think I underestimated the size and complexity of the task. It is too easy to forget that the United Kingdom is a big place with some very remote terrain. That said, our team of pilots showed that disability is irrelevant in the air and they braved some difficult flying, doing on average of over 300 miles in a day. That is a long time to be in a microlight, which is a very physical form of flying.”

Asked about the highlights of the trip he said:

“Flying over Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK, was a great achievement, not many pilots, able bodied or otherwise have achieved it and we were blessed with fantastic weather to be able to overfly the peak. I am not sure what the climbers on the day thought when they saw three microlights overhead, but we certainly had the best view that day.”

“For me personally, the high point was today. I broke away from the team and overflew RAF Odiham in Hampshire, which is the home of the Chinook squadron that airlifted me out of the battlefield when I was blown up in Afghanistan. We were hoping to land there today, but we ran out of time. The rest of the team pushed on to Kemble, but I decided to overfly Odiham and tipped my wings in respect. The tower knew I was overhead, so I hope they saw me. When they last flew me, it was very much touch and go that I would make it…So, it was great to show them I was not only here, but that I was also a pilot. A small gesture to thank them for saving my life, but the best part of the trip for me personally.”

The entire trip was a true test of endurance, due to the nature of the terrain the microlights flew over and the UK weather. At Broady, in Wales the pilots had to land in 30 mph winds that were gusting to 40 mph. This meant that the microlights had to approach the runway at 90 mph to be able to land safely.

“I was impressed at the skill the pilots showed across the whole expedition, but at Broady I was frankly amazed. I have flown for 18 years and have never flown in the conditions these guys did in Wales” said John Laity, Co-Founder & Trustee of Flying for Freedom “To see pilots with life changing disability landing in 30 - 40 mph head winds proved these guys are more than equal to any pilot.”

“When we first started Flying for Freedom many people questioned that these guy’s could even qualify. Yet at Broady they showed that disability is irrelevant in the air. I am really proud of the pilots and pleased they could demonstrate their ability to all those people who have donated to Flying for Freedom and supported flight training.”

Each of the Round Britain pilots has overcome a life changing disability, caused by injury or sickness, to join the Flying for Freedom pilot programme funded through sponsorship and public donations.

Flying for Freedom is partnered with Help for Heroes and supported by the Endeavour Fund, founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. It has also received support from Airbus Military and Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham.

Lt Col (Retd) James Harris, Co-Founder and Trustee for Flying for Freedom,said: “Flying for Freedom gives people a new focus after a life changing trauma or injury. flying is very immersive and gives individuals used to being active, a challenging outlet which is not restricted by their disability.”

The “Round Britain Flight” has highlighted the importance of sustainable post-rehabilitation activities, which can only continue with further funding and support from the public.

Donations can be made in several ways. A contribution of £3 can be made by texting ‘Wings’ to 70900 via a mobile phone. Alternatively, donations can be made by visiting the website: wwwflyingforfreedom.org,

ENDS

EDITORS NOTES

The route flown was:

Day 1

Kemble, Gloucestershire to Eggesford, Devon,

Eggesford, to RNAS Culdrose,Cornwall

RNAS Culdrose to Lands End,

Lands End to Eggesford, Eggesford to RN Chivenor, N Devon

Day 2

RN Chivenor, N Devon to Kemble, Gloucestershire,

Kemble, to Abergavenny, Monmouthshire,

Abergavenny to Brawdy,Pembrokeshire, Wales

Day 3

Brawdy to RAF Valley,Anglesey

RAF Valley to BAES Warton, Lancashire

BAES Warton to St Michaels Flying Club, Preston, Lancashire

Day 4

St Michaels, Preston, to Kilbride,Cumbria

Kilbride, Cumbria to Castle Kennedy, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

Day 5

Castle Kennedy, to Oban, Argylle

Oban to Glen Coe Ben Nevis (UK’s Highest Peak) Loch Arber

Ben Nevis to Loch Ness,

Loch Ness to Kinloss, Moray

Day 6

Kinloss to Aviemore, Inverness-shire (Cairngorm National Park)

(Ground visit to Aberdeen and Wings for Warriors – disabled helicopter training),

Aviemore to East Fortune, Perthshire, East Lothian

Day 7

East Fortune to Eshott, Northumberland,

Eshott to East Rufforth, Yorkshire

Day 8

Team stuck on ground due to bad weather

Day 9

East Rufforth, to Debden, N Essex

Debden to RAF Benson, Oxfordshire

(Where the team flew in a Merlin Helicopter)

Day 10

RAF Benson to Goodwood, W Sussex

(Where the team took pictures with a Spitfire)

Goodwood to Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre, Surrey

Headley Court, to Blackbushe, Surrey,

Blackbushe to RAF Odiham, Hampshire,

RAF Odiham to Kemble, Gloucestershire.

The challenge was completed in just 32 hours flying time and was logged at a distance of 2,208 miles.

Pictures are available of the team over Loch Ness, Ben Nevis, over the Irish Sea and with the Boultbee Spitfire.

Crew:

The disabled pilots, all of whom have served in the Royal Marines, Army or Royal Air Force, are from across the UK:

  • Capt Luke Sinnott, Royal Engineers from New Milton, New Forest video bio link
  • SSgt Matt Raasch-Sotinwa, Royal Engineers from Barnstaple, Devon video bio link
  • Flt Lt Kat Janes, RAF from Alnwick, Northumberland video bio link
  • Pte Nathan Forster, Parachute Regiment from South Shields, Tyne & Wear video bio link
  • Cpl Alan Robinson, RAF from Howsham, Lincolnshire video bio link
  • Mne Adam Coatsworth, Royal Marines, from Chapel-en-leFrith, High Peak Derbyshire.
  • Mr Dave Sykes (civilian disabled) from Earlsheaton Dewsbury.

Follow:

To follow the teams progress in the Round Britain Flight, visit www.flyingforfreedom.org or follow @fly2pole on Twitter.

Donate:

Text ‘WINGS’ to 70900 to donate £3 to Flying for Freedom Telephone helpline: 01494 750500

About Flying for Freedom:

Flying for Freedom has successfully trained wounded and injured pilots and given flying opportunities to many more. However, it does much more than provide a flight experience. The flying programme creates a club atmosphere where disability is irrelevant. Adapted aircraft make it possible for even severely disabled people to take to the air where it doesn’t matter if you are able or disabled. Qualified pilots are encouraged to train to become flying Instructors, teaching wounded servicemen and women to fly, thus ensuring an ongoing legacy.

James Harris, Co-Founder and Trustee of Flying for Freedom: “Our flying programme requires on average 35 hours training to complete, which means we get to know the pilots really well and create a flying community. This is really important as the injuries you see are not the most debilitating ones our pilots deal with”.

“Low, slow flying sometimes triggers memories of flying in Chinooks in Afghanistan and has kicked off some open discussions about PTSD. Having a group of pilots and instructors who have all dealt with similar traumas creates a supportive environment.”

Each year Flying for Freedom aims to mount a team expedition. Last year the team went to Northern Sweden to practice flying off snow. Project link: https://youtu.be/RIxD-k6jCQU

In Dec 2016 the team plans to attempt a flight across Antarctica, in their open cockpit microlights, a challenge that has never attempted by disabled or able-bodied pilots.

Picture Resources and team quotations:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/fxpxjs6n9gmsh2h/AABn-0slKk_Onb_L1tv9KtQHa?dl=0

For further information contact:

James Harris: james_e_harris@me.com Mobile: 07899 995253

John Laity: johnlaity@me.com Mobile 07730 094875

Sheron Harris: sheronharris@me.com Mobile: 07733 228953

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