On Monday a small plane rose into the skies over Dundee Airport on the sixth leg of a round-Scotland charity flight relay being backed by two DACC members.
The previous flight from Perth had seen disabled pilot David Morton (28), from Inverness, who has cerebral palsy, at the controls of a Piper Cherokee Warrior 2. When he arrived he handed over the controls for the next leg - from Dundee to Glenrothes – to Dundee University graduate Pauline Gallagher (39), who has athetoid cerebral palsy and moderate hearing loss.
That’s the whole point of the Freedom of Flight Relay Challenge and why DACC members Andy Lothian of Insights and Alan S. Morrison of ASM Media & PR combined with Paul Barnett, Chairman of Barnetts Motor Group, to sponsor and publicise local legs of the high-flying event, which aimed to clock up more than 700 nautical miles in two days.
The challenge was set to visit every county in Scotland, with each leg being flown by a disabled pilot, or one under instruction. It set off at 8am on Monday from Glasgow and visited Skye, Oban and Inverness before landing at Perth and then Dundee. After that the challenge route headed on to Glenrothes, before landing for the night at Prestwick.
Yesterday the relay was due to get a touch of celebrity glamour by switching planes to the Riems/Cessna FR172F seaplane registration G-DRAM owned by Scotland On Floats and used in the David Beckham Haig Club TV advert.
It was set fly to Loch Doon and Glenbuck Loch in Ayrshire and Loch Talla in the Borders before using special permission to splashdown on Strathclyde Loch for the first time, but sadly bad weather forced the postponement of day 2. After the historic splashdown the challenge was due to complete its epic journey with flights on to Loch Lubnaig in the Trossachs, Greenock and Largs before returning to Prestwick.
The purpose of the event is to raise awareness of disabled flying in the UK, collect much-needed funds to support those using the power of flight to increase confidence and self-esteem as well as bring together the community of disabled pilots in a shared endeavour which will inspire the wider population.
Barnetts Motor Group chairman Paul Barnett, who’s had a Private Pilot’s Licence since 1990 and has his ‘instrument-rating’ to fly in all weathers, committed the firm to providing local logistical and media support in Tayside to the Challenge as soon as he heard about it last year. He paid for ASM Media & PR to do that. He also sponsored the local leg from Perth to Dundee Airport and saw it completed on Monday.
He also asked his friend and fellow aviation enthusiast Andy Lothian, Chief Executive of Insights, to sponsor a leg, which he immediately agreed to do. He first flew solo at 8.10am on the morning of his 17th birthday – the earliest time possible – and went on to gain his Commercial Pilot’s Licence, Parachuting Pilot Examiner qualification and 1,600 hours flying time across the UK and Europe including display aerobatics. He sponsored the leg from Inverness to Perth but was unable to be present to see it completed.
The Relay Challenge is being organised by Pauline Gallagher (39), a former scholar of Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP), one of the beneficiaries of the event, who’s used learning to fly to overcome some of her physical limitations. She flew the legs from Glasgow to Inverness and Dundee to Prestwick.
She was born with athetoid cerebral palsy and moderate hearing loss. She wasn’t able to walk till she was four, writing took longer. A nursery day out to Glasgow Airport when she was four inspired her dream to learn to fly.
“Every four-year-old has a dream. That was mine.” At 15 she joined her local air cadets and at 17 won an hour’s trial lesson for her effort. She’s since been involved with the ATC, rising to officer in her local squadron.
In 2004 she won a scholarship from Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP). It’s helped her gain 40 hours towards her Private Pilot’s Licence, including her first solo flight in April 2011. Since then she’s been involved in fundraising and mentoring for FSDP. Its aim is to use learning to fly to increase the confidence and self-esteem of disabled people. Pauline also administers Aerobility operations at Prestwick Flying Club, her local flying club.
Explaining her reasons for taking part, she said: “FSDP helped me realise my dream of flying a light aircraft solo. Further flight training - to gain a Private Pilot’s Licence - has been supported by Aerobility, the other beneficiary of the Challenge.”
“FSDP gave me a way forward with the medical certification necessary for flying. It’s given me so much - for example the confidence to stand up and speak to a room full of strangers. Flying solo for the first time was the realisation of a dream.”
“Thanks to Paul and Andy, the Freedom of Flight Relay Challenge is able to spread the word about FSDP, Aerobility and its goals and to give someone else that way forward, as well as the confidence to make their dream come true.
“It’s not too late to donate to the challenge via our Virgin Money Giving page at http://bit.ly/FreedomOfFlight.”
Paul Barnett said: “As soon as Pauline contacted me I knew I had to help, so I could share my passion for the freedom of flying with people less able to enjoy it through disability. It was a real thrill to see the event take place today.”
Andy Lothian said: “Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joy of flight. The Relay Challenge will enable many more to do so – particularly some of those who may not otherwise have the chance. It’s a great event for a great cause and I hope more people donate via the Virgin Money page.”
Tayside Aviation provided ground support in Dundee.
Further information on the Relay Challenge, including how to donate funds, is available at www.freedom-of-flight.co.uk
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