Hand Controls

Freedom in The Air (FITA) is committed to opening horizons for people with disabilities so that they can fly higher socially, physically and professionally. Flying is one of the few activities where people with disabilities can participate to the same degree as an able-bodied person.

“I drive a car and I sail, but flying is new to me.  You leave the wheelchair on the ground; no restrictions and you carry on – its confidence, its freedom, and its fantastic. I did not want to land the plane and just fly off into the sunset..” Janette Marsland – Freedom Wings Pilot With the PHAB Club, July 2010.

We have been working with Cranfield University School of Aerospace Engineering for three years and are about to make flying easier and more inclusive for pilots with lower limb disabilities. This partnership has developed a new portable handheld device for rudder control. Its purpose is to allow full rudder and steering authority on the ground and in the air, removing the need for legs and feet.

Currently disabled pilots rely on a rudder hand control that they have to shift up and down to move the plane from side to side. The hand controls currently in use are no longer being manufactured. The novel idea behind the new design is that it is more intuitive and uses a sideways motion to control the plane from side to side. Its design means it can be fitted to a number of aircraft including Cessna’s 172, and the Piper PA28 Warrior and Cherokee. We chose the Cessna and Piper, as they are common aeroplanes found at flying schools anywhere in the world.

Our aim was to design a hand control that would be inexpensive and removable after each flight, thus significantly increasing accessibility. The new hand-control will enable a wide range of light aircraft to be flown by pilots with disabilities. With support from Aerodac – Aerospace Design and Certification, we are working on the documents and other paperwork needed to complete the certification for a Supplement Type Certificate to gain approval from EASA.  Our application was accepted in January 2011 and we expect to complete the test flight using the controls during summer 2011 with the UK Civil Aviation Authority. Once certified (target date is August 2011), it will be approved in 31 countries governed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

“The Freedom Control “ is a unique concept. To our knowledge; there are no other similar controls available for disabled pilots.

Our vision is to create the opportunity for people with lower limb disabilities to experience the thrill of flying. The aim is for all disabled pilots to achieve a Private Pilots License through progressive and professional instruction.