On Saturday, 4 September, 22 disabled youngsters will get the chance to take to the air for flying lessons at a family open day for the Eagles’ Wings Trust at the Dinas Dinlle airfield.
The charity’s founder, former school teacher and flying instructor Paul Asbridge, is working with the Douglas Bader Foundation and Aerobility to make his dream come true.
“We will work with people of all disabilities,” said Paul, who thinks learning to fly is an experience which should be shared by more people.
“We also aim to build links with ex-military personnel injured in conflicts,” he added.
But the prime focus of Eagles’ Wings will be giving disadvantaged youths aged between 18 and 25 the chance to get flying.
“The idea for the charity has been in my mind for a long time,” he said. “I’ve been flying for over 30 years, and when I got my commercial licence I wanted to do more than just fly for airlines.
“There is nothing like the feeling of freedom you have in the air. I want to bring that experience to as many challenged yet inspirational young people as possible.
“So I’m interested in young people from difficult socio-economic backgrounds who haven’t had opportunities others have had.
“We want to build confidence and self-belief, and for them to learn some new skills.”
Paul plans to offer a series of short courses working towards the private pilot’s licence. But it won’t all be about the flying.
“They’ll be involved in helping to run the trust; skills which we think will make them more employable,” explained Paul.
“After they’ve completed one of the short modules, they’ll have to fundraise to help pay for the rest of the course. So they’ll have more training in the community.”
Paul’s aim is to give such opportunities to two new students a month, though any young person between 14 and 21 can ask for a heavily subsidised one-off flying lesson.
“The focus is about building confidence and changing mind sets and attitudes,” he said. “I want to help people who’ve been written off, to say, ‘you can do something special, and we’ll help you’.”
The family open day is one of a number of awareness and fundraising days planned by the trust over the next 18 months.