Aerobility – a flight of passage

As some of you may know I’m lucky enough to be an ambassador for the flying charity Aerobility. I’ve had a great association with them since obtaining my initial pilot’s licence back in 2009 and was their first student to gain my PPL (private pilot’s licence).

However, over the last couple of years I feel like my commitment to them has been neglected slightly as any spare time for aviating has been focused solely on bringing the little Cub back to life. And so I haven’t been to see them in ages! I rectified that last week though.
I’ve been flying the Cub for quite some time now since G-BDEY came out of refit, and right from the beginning of the project I made it my priority to get the aeroplane down to Blackbushe, where Aerobility are based now, to show those guys the new aircraft.

The reason I didn’t make that trip my very first after being signed off in the Cub was because Blackbushe Airport only has asphalt runways, no grass runways, so I thought it would be very wise to get at least 100 take offs and landings on that type of aeroplane before I land on the hard surface. Hard surfaces make the aeroplane a lot more twitchy on touch down so you have to be very very careful. The last thing in the world I would want would be to break the aeroplane on my first trip down there! How embarrassing would that be!

On Thursday last week I made my way down to them and on landing was amazed to see how much they have expanded in their new location. They came out to see me taxi the little yellow aeroplane over and I was greeted by the CEO Mike Miller-Smith who has devoted his life to helping people like me and giving as many other people with disabilities the opportunity to reach for the skies.
It was great to see everyone and show Mike and the instructors around the controls in the cub. After tea and lunch they showed me what they had been up and to be honest it made my work on the Cub pale into insignificance! They had built a new air conditioned hangar for 3 aircraft with a cinema system, within the hangar they had their Piper Cherokee 6 which is offering complex type conversions to pilots looking to expand their licences, in the distance they had a newly acquired Yak 52 which is an old Russian trainer with a big radial engine and is fully aerobatic. In their ops centre connected to the back of the hangar they have an LD PA28 Warrior which has been converted into a complete flight simulator with all the bells and whistles as well as several classrooms and activity rooms. It’s amazingly impressive and of course all completely disabled friendly and accessible. An amazing atmosphere to the place rings throughout as well. But perhaps the most spectacular of their achievements was the arrival back to the field of their brand new, factory finished Technam trainer which they had modified by the manufacturer right off the line! Very impressive when you think it’s the first aeroplane ever built from starch with disabled pilots in mind. How far we’ve come over the years, which got me thinking . . .

My day was coming to an end and I had to leave, but on the flight back once the cub was settled en route back to turweston I thought about how far they had come since I first approached them with an ambition to fly.

I first started flying when they were known as the British disabled flying association and based a little further south of blackbushe at an airfield called Lasham (I have to mention that this strip was a former mosquito base!) anyway I digress. . . the HQ of the charity was a tiny portakabin on the far side of the runways nestled amongst airlines being either resprayed or cut up for scrap. Back then we had two pa28 warriors with hand controls and were a huge well of untapped potential.

Through Mike and the teams hard work and passion they have turned a small charity struggling to turnover into the authority on disabled aviation in the uk and very likely the world.
As a passionate flyer and disabled man I know the freedom flight can offer. If you know anyone no matter how disabled or how old get them down to Mike and the gang and I guarantee you’ll love it.