Four Surrey Choices customers are flying high after completing a ‘life changing’ course that has seen them learn to pilot a plane.
Surrey Choices supports a range of people with disabilities to find the best care, activities and services for their needs across Surrey. It recently teamed up with the charity, Aerobility, to give four of its customers the chance to take to the skies.
Aerobility, based at Blackbushe Airport, near Camberley, offers disabled people, without exception, the opportunity to fly an aeroplane.
Ashley Ruffle, Zoe Taylor, and Justin Munday, who all attend Surrey Choices’ Camberley Community Group, and Stephen Marlow, who attends its Farnham Community Group, took part in Aerobility’s first ever Aspiring Pilot Programme.
The four-week course included basic flight training lessons in an aircraft and in a simulator, alongside a series of short classroom-based lessons on aviation-related subjects.
It was funded and sponsored by the Aviation Club of the UK.
Ashley and Zoe, from Camberley, Justin, from Frimley, and Stephen, from Wrecclesham, will be presented with certificates on Thursday April 23, to mark their achievements.
Linda Phillips, who runs the Surrey Choices Camberley Community Group, said the participants had all thoroughly enjoyed their flying experience.
“Having the opportunity to fly a plane has been a real achievement for all our customers. They have been an inspiration,” she said.
The course content was written by Aerobility’s chief flying instructor, James Brown, who also delivered the course alongside fellow flying instructor Stuart Redman-Lusher.
Zoe, age 40, said she had enjoyed the course so much that she now wants to become a pilot.
“I really enjoy it. I love being up there in the sky,” she added.
Ashley, age 46, said: “I enjoy it very much because I like going up flying.”
Aerobility chief executive, Mike Miller-Smith, said: “The Aspiring Pilot Programme was launched to give everybody the chance to participate in a structured yet accessible introduction to the world of flight.
“We approached Surrey Choices to help us launch the programme and the group of four customers that took part in our first course grabbed the opportunity with enthusiasm. I think they would agree that it has been a great success, good fun and they have picked up some useful skills and knowledge along the way.
“We have had two fantastic volunteers helping at each session – Mireille Fabre and Tony Birth. We also need to give credit to Blackbushe fire crew for their part in helping us to deliver one of the sessions.
“The Aspiring Pilot Programme and working with Surrey Choices is a great example of the interesting and unique opportunities now available to the disabled community. We are very pleased with the outcome.
“We must thank the members of the Aviation Club of the UK for their support in funding the first participants of the Aspiring Pilot Programme.”
Surrey Choices managing director, Simon Laker, said the course had given the four an amazing opportunity.
“It has been a brilliant opportunity for our customers. The sense of achievement and independence they have gained from taking part in the course has been really life-changing for them. We’re hoping to work with Aerobility again in the future to give more of our customers the opportunity to benefit from the experience.”