Suzi Duncan, creator of the Vision air hand control for pilots with lower limb disabilities, a Commercial Pilot & Flight Instructor who herself has a disability. She is a pioneer in the world of disabled aviation and our inspiration.
Flying had always been a dream, as she thought that this wold represent the eptiome of Freedom. However Suzi thought this would be impossible because she had polio. One day in 1990 a friend asked her to come for a ride in his aeroplane.
That first flying lesson, the first time in a light aircraft, was the most extraordinary experience Suzi had ever had. Up there she was free, she was equal, up there she didn’t have a disability. The freedom, independence and self-belief that flying gave Suzi and the fact that flying for people with disabilities was not accessible in Australia started the seed of an idea.
She trained as a pilot, then extended her pilot qualifications; a commercial licence, then an instructor’s rating, and a command instrument rating.
With the help of CASA (Civil Aviation Authority, Australia), the Royal Victoria Aero Club, Melbourne and Gippsland Aeronautics she started to develop the ‘Vision Air’ hand control to empower pilots with lower limb disabilities access to general aviation. Vision air was also the flying programme for people with disabilities in Australia.
In 1997 Suzi received the “Nancy Bird Award” , for the most significant contribution to aviation by a woman of Australasia”. In 1998 she received a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship. This was awarded to enable her to:
- Look at flying for the physically disabled in the USA and UK.
- Look at, compare and asses how America and the UK asses people with physical disabilities with respect to flying. Particularly as they’re respective attitudes with respect to who can fly tends to be at opposite extremes.
- Look at a Flying Scholarship programme in the UK in memory of Sir Douglas Bader. Suzi was in the process of trying to set a similar programme in Australia.
As a result of the success of the “Vision Air” hand control at that point of time, her Churchill Fellowship inadvertently had significant focus around the hand control. The “Vision Air” hand control is to date, being used in America, Canada, France, the UK, and South Africa.
Currently, Suzi gives significant time to various community groups in her area. In particular she teaches art voluntarily to several groups of people with disabilities (this is art in the broadest context and disability in the broadest context, i.e it could be someone who is isolated). She is also involved with facilitating art within refugee groups.
Art is known to cross all boarders and barriers and is often a critical form of expression. Particularly when then more conventional methods of communication and expression are not available. The art work was so successful that Suzi was asked to set up a group in the Epping area that was particularly aimed at encouraging people with a disability to get back into the community.
We are honored and proud to be associated with Suzi.