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 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. 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.
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.
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