A disabled pilot challenged himself to complete a 2,000 mile flight around Britain to raise awareness about a not-for-profit organisation that teaches people with disabilities to fly. Londoner Gautam Lewis, who is reliant on crutches after contracting polio as a three-year-old in India, departed from the Freedom in the Air (FITA) base at Cranfield Airport on 17th August 2011
His five-day Freedom Flight Tour called at various airports in England, Wales and Scotland. Destinations on the tour included Blackpool, Carlisle, Islay, Edinburgh, Lands End before touching back down at Cranfield.
He spent up to four hours a day in the cockpit of his Cessna 172 plane, using Union Aviation hand controls. The tour is to promote the newly designed ‘freedom control‘ developed in partnership with Cranfield University school of Aerospace Engineering. The new ‘freedom control’ will enable people with lower limb disabilities more opportunities and greater inclusion in general aviation. The new ‘freedom control’ have been designed to give more choice in what aircraft can be flown across the Piper and Cessna range, such as the PA28, Cherokee, Archer to the C152, C172.
Gautam set up FITA in October 2007, one month after receiving his private pilot licence.
He said: “I thought maybe I should do something positive about supporting disabled people, help them learn new skills and push them to a new level of confidence.
“It’s trying to show what we can do regardless of disability.”
Although the Freedom Flight UK Tour, 2011, is not a fundraising event, Gautam wants to spread the word about the launch of the new ‘freedom control’ during the Paralypmic which will be held in the UK during 2012.
Many flying schools up and down the UK have shown great interest in the new controls and the units will be certified in 31 EU countries and in America.