Many people mistakenly assume that flying hang gliders and paragliders is impossible for people with disabilities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Flyability is the BHPA's disability initiative. It promotes hang gliding and paragliding opportunities - including dual flights and training scholarships - for people with disabilities, and strives to bring disability awareness and education to the whole of the BHPA membership. It also has the contacts, expertise and enthusiasm to solve any problems that may be presented when training disabled pilots alongside able-bodied ones.
Steve Varden, Flyability's original co-ordinator, learned to fly hang gliders despite difficulties caused by his own disability (athetosis cerebral palsy). Within the BHPA there are a number of pilots with more or less severe disabilities. Through their own determination - and the support and enthusiasm of school proprietors, instructors, fellow students and friends - they have addressed their individual, specific problems in adapting to flying and have become respected and valued members of the free flying community.
Since the advent of Flyability, many, many people have become aware of the problems those with disabilities face when participating in flying. Sometimes the problems faced are immense, at other times less so. In each case the difficulties involved in helping people with disabilities to discover the freedom of the air have been overcome - by ingenuity, trial and error, patience and effort.
Determination to succeed, and the goal of sharing the dream of flight, will always win out.
To a BHPA instructor, the best indications of a student's potential as a pilot are motivation, attitude and dedication. They probably won't even mention physical ability or agility at all. The message from the free-flying community to anyone with disabilities is: 'You can fly!'
Alongside the work of actually training people with disabilities to fly, Flyability runs Disability Awareness weekends and provides disability awareness input to BHPA courses. It has also assisted clubs and schools in getting funding from local businesses and charities to buy suitable equipment such as tandem gliders.
Flyability also promotes and funds tandem flying for people with disabilities who may be unable to fly alone. Tandem Air Experience flights and solo Student Pilot Scholarships are the main use of its charitable funds.
Impossible is not a word that Flyability folk understand. If you really want to… you can fly!
Flyability pilot scholarship scheme Flyability recognises that people with disabilities often have lower incomes and higher living costs compared to the rest of society. With this in mind, Flyability can contribute up to £375 towards a would-be pilot's ab-initio training costs, and a similar sum towards Club Pilot training. Where possible, a student with disabilities will train at a BHPA registered school alongside able-bodied student pilots.
If you could benefit from Flyability's work, email them at contact@Flyability.org.uk.
To apply for a Pilot Scholarship, contact the BHPA school of your choice and complete the first part of the application, available from the Flyability website. With this completed, contact Flyability and tell them why you simply must fly! Entries (in addition to the form) can be on paper, audio, videotape, etc. Flyability Scholarships are open to UK residents only.
Last updated: 03 March 2021
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