Blind and Partially Sighted Youngsters Experience Thrill of Flight

Five blind and partially sighted young people have enjoyed a chance to experience the thrill of flying in and around Dundee.

Taking off in Tayside Aviation aircraft, they sat beside an experienced pilot in a small dual-control Piper Warrior plane used for teaching trainees.

The opportunity came thanks to Flying Aces, an innovative scheme set up by the RAF Air Cadets and funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund, where young people from disadvantaged or disabled backgrounds can experience the thrill of flight.

The instructors and the planes were provided by Dundee flight school Tayside Aviation.

Jim Watt, Managing Director said, “We are delighted to be the delivery partner for the Flying Aces programme, which includes youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s great to share the excitement of taking to the skies with young people that normally would not be given that opportunity.”

Group Captain Jim Leggat, Regional Commandant for the Air Cadets in Scotland and Northern Ireland added, “We encourage young people to think: If I can fly an aeroplane – is there anything in life I can’t do?

“The exercise is about getting them to control the aircraft as much as possible. They will be flying to the extent that any youngster – Air Cadet or not, disabled or not – is asked to.

“While, ultimately, it’s a matter for the instructor’s judgement, the young people had a chance to pull back on the control column and feel the aircraft rising. They also experienced turning, flying level, climbing and descending.

“We know that blind and partially-sighted flyers are likely get much more out of the experience than those who do have sight. They ‘feel’ flight and appreciate the various gravitational and other forces acting on the aircraft that are often lost on others. We hope they had a great day in the air. It’s worth pointing out, too, that – while most training flights take place below cloud-level – in cloud, and at night, sight is actually of very little help to you.”

Daryl Stewart (17) from Edinburgh, who has a cerebral visual impairment said, “I’ve been really looking forward to this. It’s a great chance to gain a new experience and learn new skills. I think I was a bit nervous at first when I took over the controls, but I’m never been a nervous passenger before when flying on planes so I was ok.”

The young people are all members of sight loss charity RNIB Scotland’s youth group, which meets weekly at the organisations’s Edinburgh headquarters.

Jane Coates from RNIB Scotland said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for our young people to try something they might otherwise have never been given the chance to do, because of their sight loss. What youngster wouldn’t be thrilled to fly a plane alongside a pilot used to teaching novices? Flying Aces have gone out of their way to make this dream a reality.”


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