On Saturday the 15th February 2014 Prince Harry launched a Spitfire Flight Scholarship for wounded ex-servicemen during a visit to Boultbee Flight Academy. The scholarship is being operated by Boultbee Flight Academy with support from Aerobility and Flying for Freedom in partnership with The Endeavour Fund, of which Prince Harry is patron. Pilot veterans from World War Two, and some who fought in the Battle of Britain, were also in attendance at the launch to give their backing to the scheme.
Beginning in the summer of 2014, a small team of six candidates will be selected to begin a flight training programme to mirror that of WW2 pilot veterans. The programme will see one of the selected candidates progress from a Tiger Moth to a Harvard and finally the Spitfire itself. It will culminate with at least one pilot taking a solo flight in a Spitfire, to help mark the 75th anniversary of The Battle of Britain in September 2015.
This scholarship draws inspiration from the pilot Douglas Bader who flew throughout the Second World War with 20 individual aerial victories despite losing both his legs in 1931. Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader DSO DFC flew his final sortie from the same airfield where Boultbee Flight Academy now stands. The candidates will be drawn from wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans, who have already received initial flying training from two disabled flying charities, Aerobility and Flying for Freedom. These two charities will ensure the chosen pilots have the essential skills to begin this demanding course in the summer of 2014.
The flight scholarship aims to shine a spotlight on the inspirational actions undertaken by our wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans, and to inspire those who have served their country to go on and achieve great things.
Matt Jones, Managing Director at the Academy says: "We at the Boultbee Flight Academy are very proud to be working with the Royal Foundation’s Endeavour fund in this exciting scholarship. We believe that the act of training a disabled pilot to fly a Spitfire will help to continue to raise the profile of the charities that support wounded ex-servicemen and will play a part connecting a new generation to the spitfire, the emotions that the machine evokes and the actions of The Few who defended Britain during World War 2."
Mike Miller-Smith, Chief Executive, Aerobility states "Aerobility regularly finds that learning to fly proves to be a life changing process for those with injuries and disabilities, and this incredible project uses the iconic Spitfire, so much more than a simple aeroplane, a symbol of hope and British endeavour to bring together history and new opportunities for those that have given so much."
John Laity, Founder, Flying for Freedom says "Post-recovery flying activities demonstrate what is possible for often severely disabled people to achieve. This can inspire those still in rehabilitation and enable recovery for our wounded, injured and sick. However it is really important that we do not just train pilots, but also provide opportunities that allow them to develop and go on to support others in need. This is what this project will do, by allowing our pilots to show that in the air they are free of disability and capable of flying a national treasure. Flying for Freedom is not a charity, it is a Flying School / Club run for and by our wounded, injured and sick. As such, I am thrilled that some of our pilots will be able to make history as part of this exciting project."
Everyone at the Academy is very excited and proud about this scheme and we really look forward to starting at the start of this next flying season.