Flying for the Disabled

From an article in the Spinal Injuries Association Mag 'Forward' by Steve Derwin

The history of disabled aviators goes back almost as far as aviation itself. In 1931 RAF Flying Officer Douglas Bader lost both legs in a flying accident. After learning to walk with artificial legs, he managed to convince the RAF that he could still fly, going on to play an heroic part in the Battle of Britain in 1940, being shot down and imprisoned. After the war he built a flying career with Shell aircraft, and was the President of the Royal International Air Tattoo from 1976 until his death in 1982. In 1983, the Flying Scholarships for the Disabled Scheme was founded and dedicated to Bader's courage and determination in the face of disability.

IN 1992, RAF pilot Tim Ellison was involved in an accident when his Harrier jet suffered engine failure. The accident left Tim paraplegic. In 1993 he co-founded the British Disabled Flying Association because his passion for flying made him determined to continue despite his disability, and to ensure that others could do the same. In 1994 Tim gained his FAA commercial flying licences and worked as a forest-fire-fighting pilot until, in 1997, he became the first paraplegic in the world to gain an FAA Airline Transport Pilot's licence. In 2001 he competed in the London to Sydney air race finishing first in class and second overall.

We hope that Tim's story encourages disabled people to realise that anything is possible, in life and in flying.

The British Disabled Flying Association (BDFA), formerly known as the British Disabled Flying Club (BDFC), was set up in 1993 and is dedicated to helping disabled people achieve their individual aviation ambitions. A registered charity, the BDFA offers the following:

• The opportunity to become a member of a professionally run organisation that offers a wide range of aviation opportunities for disabled people.
• A wide range of specially organised Flying Days for the Disabled around the UK.
• Information concerning specially funded scholarships for individuals with ambitions to learn to fly and even attain a Private Pilot's Licence. • A voice for disabled people everywhere to lobby for improvements in legislation so that more people have the chance to realise their aviation dreams.
• A professionally written and designed newsletter distributed to more than 1500 readers throughout the world.

That is the BDFA today. Never has the future looked more exciting for disabled people interested in aviation.

In 2003 we were donated four Bulldog aircraft by the Royal Jordanian Airforce and after eighteen months long, hard work, raising funds and seeking support we are nearing completion of the refurbishment of the first aeroplane which will be ready for flight and listed on the British register early in 2005. We intend to fly this aircraft into our flying days and events up and down the country and make it generally available for use by our members and other disability organisations and individuals as frequently as is possible.

Next year the BDFA looks forward to providing and being involved in some very exciting aviation events. As well as our own, well-established calendar of flying days with the old favourites giving great opportunities for people to enjoy fantastic flying, we welcome new venues into our programme. We also look forward to exciting joint ventures with other organisations and flying clubs who are putting on events and have kindly invited us to attend. Below is a preliminary list of dates and venues. We hope that some SIA members will be able to come along and enjoy flying with us and we look forward to seeing you there