The sky's the limit for four young flyers with sight loss!
Four blind and partially sighted young people will get a chance to experience the thrill of flying today - and have their adventure shown coast to coast on American television.
Taking off from Dundee Airport, the youngsters - members of RNIB Scotland's youth club - will sit beside an experienced pilot in a small dual-control Piper Warrior plane used for teaching novice-flyers.
Their adventure will be filmed by US tv network CBS as part of a series on how different types of transport can break down barriers around the world. The programme, 'CBS This Morning', will be broadcast nationally in all 50 states.
The youngsters' opportunity is thanks to Flying Aces, a scheme set up by the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, and funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund, whereby young people from disadvantaged or disabled backgrounds can experience the thrill of flight.
Group Captain Jim Leggat, Regional Commandant for the Air Cadets in Scotland and Northern Ireland said: “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 of the instructor’s judgement, the young people will have a chance to pull back on the control column and feel the aircraft rising. They will also experience turning, flying level, climbing and descending.
"We know that blind and partially-sighted flyers are likely to 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 have a great day in the air.
"It's worth pointing out, too, that - while most training flights take place below cloud-level - in the clouds, and at night, sight is actually of very little help to you."
Jane Coates from RNIB Scotland said: "This is another wonderful opportunity for more of 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 teach novices? Flying Aces have gone out of their way to make this dream a reality."
The instructors and the planes have been provided by flight school Tayside Aviation, based at Dundee Airport. Jim Watt, managing director, said: "It's great to share the excitement of taking to the skies with young people that normally would not be given that opportunity."
Air Vice-Marshal Ross Paterson, Air Officer Scotland, has also been part of expanding the Flying Aces scheme to include disabled and disadvantaged youngsters. “We’re delighted to see how much all of the young people involved in our scheme not only enjoy their flying here at Dundee but are also really inspired to feel that they can get on and do other things too," he said.
"We now have a three-part pathway available to young people in Scotland. Firstly, we have three Mobile Flight Simulators, generously funded by the rugby charity Wooden Spoon, that are fully accessible to all, and provide a realistic and fun flying simulation. These Simulators will be visiting day centres, schools and events right across Scotland to offer the opportunity to as many young people as is possible.
"We hope that this will then encourage more young people to join us for the second part here at Dundee and to experience a real flight, as well as perhaps learn a little bit more about STEM and aerospace."
"The third part is for those who are really inspired to take their experience further. We are just starting to work with Flying Scholarships for Disabled People that sponsor people to undertake 20-plus hours of flying and work towards ‘going solo’ if they can. The ultimate challenge.
"This charity, which has strong links to the RAF, is supported by a wide range of benefactors, including the RAF’s Red Arrows and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and is very keen to attract more Scottish scholars. We hope to see lots more people apply as a result of Flying Aces and hopefully open a centre for them here in Scotland.
"Having just celebrated our centenary and now working hard towards creating our next generation air force, the RAF is thrilled to be involved in this new project that seeks to inspire young Scots, regardless of disability or facing disadvantage, to fulfil their potential.
"It’s an old saying that ‘the Sky’s The Limit’ – but with the Flying Aces Scheme here in Scotland, we are starting to show that it’s actually just the beginning for these young people.”