INJURED SERVICEMEN BID FOR WORLD-FIRST ANTARCTIC MISSION
On Tuesday, 22nd January, 2013, a team of injured servicemen launched Flying for Freedom, an expedition that will see injured servicemen and women attempt a world-first microlight flight to the South Pole.
In partnership with Help For Heroes, the seven-strong team of pilots launched the Flying For Freedom mission which, seeks to enhance recovery programmes for injured and disabled servicemen and women by experiencing the freedom of flying microlights.
Lord Digby Jones, Patron of Flying for Freedom, joined the “squadron” at the Tower of London expedition launch, to pay tribute to their bravery in tackling the task and giving fresh hope to all injured and disabled military personnel. The expedition, which has never been attempted by an able-bodied person, will take place in 2014 after the team have completed their pilot’s training and undertaken cold weather training.
Corporal Alan Robinson who is part of the team, based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire said ‘It’s been a lifelong ambition. The best thing about it is that when I’m in the aircraft and I’m flying I’m no longer a disabled person, the disability disappears. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, how many people get to do that? It’s going to be brilliant, I can’t wait.’
The polar aero trek will involve a round trip flight of over 3,000 miles, flying at cruising altitudes of up to 10,000 feet in temperatures as low as -30 degrees centigrade. The expedition will also attempt to achieve three world firsts, the first flexible wing flight in Antarctica, first over the South Pole and first over Mount Vinson which at 16,050 feet is the highest peak on the Antarctic continent.
The expedition is part of a wider programme being undertaken by Flying for Freedom to establish a number of ‘flying’ recovery centres around the UK for injured and disabled servicemen and women.
Lord Digby Jones explains: “The challenge and the thrill of learning to fly has been shown to boost the recoveries of those who have suffered injuries or disabilities. Flying for Freedom aims to bring this benefit to many servicemen and women, aiding their recovery and also teaching them a new skill which could help them when they leave the armed forces.”
Martin Colclough, Head of Physical Development, Help for Heroes said: “Overcoming adversity by pitting yourself against the elements of land, sea and air is what many members of our Armed Forces find incredibly helpful when coming to terms with their injuries. For some this will be something simple such as learning to ski or ride a bike again but many others look for a unique challenge that’s never before been attempted and this is such a challenge. Over the last few years several injured personnel have discovered the freedom of flight but the Flying for Freedom South Pole Expedition takes aviation to a whole other level. Help for Heroes are delighted to be working in partnership with Flying for Freedom, the men and women taking on this challenge are true pioneers and will truly deserve their place in the pantheon of Great British aviators.”
Flying for Freedom is seeking to raise sponsorship funds of £1.2 million to launch the full Flying for Freedom project and mount the expedition. It is already acquiring aircraft and training pilots thanks to the generosity of its two initial sponsors – EADS and Lord Digby Jones.
The seven disabled pilots are, all of whom have served in the Army or Royal Air Force, are from across the UK:
Capt (Retd) Martin Hewitt, Parachute Regiment from Wilmslow, Cheshire. SSgt Matt Raasch-Sotinwa, Royal Engineers from Barnstaple, Devon. Flt Lt Kat Janes, RAF from Alnwick, Northumberland. Capt Luke Sinnott, Royal Engineers from New Milton. Pte Nathan Forster, Parachute Regiment from South Shields, Tyne & Wear. Former LCpl Jamie Hull, Parachute Regt from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. Cpl Alan Robinson, RAF from Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire.
To find out more about Flying For Freedom or to donate, please visit www.fly2pole.com