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HIGH FLYER Arthur given new lease of life
Arthur Williams, a former Marine who suffered devastating injuries in a car crash has been given new freedom by learning to fly, thanks to the work of the British Disabled Flying Association (BDFA).
THE 23-year-old had just returned from an overseas operation in Norway in 2007 when he and his girlfriend were involved in a car crash which left him paralysed.
Undeterred by his disability, he approached the BDFA and after his first flight, he started training for his private pilots’ licence. Nearly a year on, Arthur is the first former Serviceman to gain his Private Pilots License through the BDFA and says that flying has helped him deal with anger he felt in the wake of his accident.
He said: “I have always had an interest in flying. I was searching the internet one day and found the BDFA, I rang them and asked if it was something I could try and soon I was down at Lasham enjoying my first flight. After nine hours of flying, I went solo and in total it has taken me ten months.
“It has taken a few days to sink in that I had passed my test and I have a real feeling of achievement. I’m the sort of person who craves the next goal and it was a feeling I haven’t had for years. It is the way I have always been, being in the Marines has meant I like structure and looking forward to the next challenge.”
During the months after the accident, Arthur found it difficult to come to terms with what had happened and how daily tasks became a chore - a far cry from the fit and athletic man he once was.
He continued: “It has taken a long time to get over the fact I cannot use my legs and the anger issues are still there but I am more capable of controlling those feelings. Flying has empowered me to get over the anger. It is hard to image that I have gone from being a fighter to someone being in a wheelchair who isn’t capable of doing much. Flying has given me a whole lot more freedom - freedom which was taken away from me when I became disabled. I feel independent, knowing that I can just hire the plane and take myself off when and where I feel like.”
Arthur was on leave at the time of the accident when his car hit black ice, skidded off the road and flipped over. He broke his back in three places and was left paralysed from the waist down. “There have been times when I have not known how to deal with my anger. I had a very short fuse during the time I was serving and trying to get over the anger of being disabled is so hard. I’m a very determined person and even refused to have an electric wheelchair - I never allowed myself to give in that easily.
“In the 18 months following the accident, I reviewed what I was going to do with my life. Most people with a disability end up doing desk jobs and that is something I didn’t want for myself - it was a real struggle trying to find out what I wanted to do.”
It is people like Arthur that the BDFA aims to help. It is a charity run by disabled people for disabled people, and aims to give those who have faced struggles and hardships the chance to experience something like any able bodied person.
The BDFA have operational bases at Lasham near Basingstoke in Hampshire, and Tatenhill near Derby. Low cost trial flights are available, with full training to PPL also on offer. Arthur flies one of their adapted Piper PA28 aircraft, fitted with a hand rudder control.
Even very severely disabled people can try flying with the BDFA, which has specialist hoisting equipment allowing people to be lifted into their slidingcanopy Bulldog aircraft.
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