A MORAY MUM with a range of conditions that severely limits her mobility has said her life has been totally changed after spending three weeks on a Flying Scholarship.
Karen Cox has to live with hypermobility syndrome, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia – each in their own right painful and severely limiting. Despite this, Karen has worked tirelessly to raise funds as the chair of Team RAFBF Lossiemouth.
A determined Mrs Cox applied for and was accepted by the charity Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP), set up in memory of the WW2 fighter ace Sir Douglas Bader who having lost both legs in a pre-war flying accident refused to give up his love of flying.
Karen returned this week after spending three weeks learning to fly at the Gryphon Aero Club in the Cotswolds – and celebrated the end of her course by taking one final flight with her instructor – with her husband and daughter in the back as proud (and not in the slightest nervous) passengers.
She told insideMoray: “FSDP has opened the door to the world for me – really, it has been as dramatic as that. The reality was that before I left home three weeks ago I was frankly terrified.
“Such was my fear that I had my husband check on flight times to get me back home again – but I stayed out the course and I’m so glad that I did. Everyone was so patient and understanding – now I am home again with this amazing confidence that I never thought it would be possible to have.
“It’s really weird because you don’t realise it’s happening – one day you can’t drive locally and the next you are making decisions and you suddenly realise that it’s a big one – like going into Stroud on my scooter alone, not even knowing where I was going. Seriously, before this I would not go shopping in Elgin on my own!
“Before I learned to fly I had lost my confidence, now we are talking about booking a family holiday and travelling. I am even going to have a birthday party for my 50th – something I would never had done before.”
Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP), based at Fairford in Gloucestershire , has trained more than 400 people since it was set up in 1983.
Its aim is to give men and women with disabilities the chance to realise their full potential through the mental and physical challenge of learning to fly.
Keith Bayliss is the Chairman of FSDP: “Learning to fly changes people’s lives. Because of their disability, our scholars are often told what they can’t do.
“Well our aim is to change that perception and give them the confidence to show themselves and the world what they can do. Disability is no barrier to learning to fly – once they are in the air the scholars talk about having a new found freedom – something they don’t have on the ground.”
Karen is one of eleven disabled individuals who was offered a flying scholarship this year, all suffering from a range of disabilities and illnesses. The trainees are sent on three or four week long intensive courses in the in the UK.
The cost of the course, which includes both flying lessons and ground school – accommodation and subsistence is free of charge to the scholars.
Karen was presented with her scholarship certificate by FSDP Patron HRH Prince Faisal of Jordan and Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, Chief of the Air Staff at a ceremony at the Royal International Tattoo at the weekend.
The charity is looking for more disabled people over the age of 18 to apply for a scholarship.
If you are interested in sponsoring a scholar contact Julie Bull – FSDP General Manager on 0844 578 4578.