pilot John de Frayssinet after taking a World Air Speed Record
There is often the idea that only fit
'Hurray Henrys' can pilot aircraft. Actually, nothing is further from the
truth. A convention was signed in Chicago years back between most sensible
countries that allowed pilots who passed standard fitness criteria within
their own countries, to fly into others using their own license.
Those with disabilities do not of course
comply with the Chicago convention, but most Western Countries have made
it possible for disabled pilots to fly within their boundaries. Of course,
some countries are more reasonable than others, France (by far), the UK,
Canada, the Antipodes and the USA are probably the best.
A disabled pilot, before flying to
another country, must apply for permission. They have to send a copy of
their license and medical certificate with a covering letter to the
country's aviation authority. In most cases, you receive permission quite
quickly, with the exceptions, (in the West) of Spain, (who never respond),
Belgium (who can take up to year year), and Portugal (who expect you to
take a local medical flight test).
The letters of permission must be
carried by the disabled pilot when visiting that country.
Disability is often viewed as those who
use a wheelchair. Actually, about 90% of officially disabled pilots do
not. Disablement takes many forms, from deafness, eyesight problems,
diabetes, to amputations etc. etc.
In most cases, disabled people are able
to train alongside the able bodied at your local flying club. Difficulties
arise when a specially adapted aircraft is needed. Here, you may have to
travel further, and find a club who can offer the correct aircraft. This
information is made available on a number of websites.
For those who have difficulties with leg
movement, some aircraft (Pipers in particular) are easier to covert than
others. Other aircraft can be converted specially, although it does take
time to obtain the necessary permissions and engineering design. There are
plenty of experts who can advise.
At some point during training, a
disabled person does have to jump one additional hurdle. This is what is
called a medical flight test. Here, the examiner determines that you are
able to control the aircraft as well as an able bodied person with that
level of training. It is not hard to pass, and is usually quite flexible.
Many disabled people go on to fly their
own adapted aircraft and take part in anything from aerobatics to air
Some disablements (heart problems
and diabetes for
instance) may mean that at all times, you have to fly with what is called
a 'safety pilot'. This is someone qualified to fly that aircraft and who
can take over if the disabled person becomes unwell. This is not as bad as
it sounds, as usually, one can always find a volunteer.
The picture at many airfields is not so
good however. For those with mobility difficulties, some airfields still
will not allow you to park in reach of facilities and will not provide
transportation from your aircraft. Bergerac, France, is one of the worst
offenders here. For the most part though, if you radio to the tower that
you have walking difficulties, help will be forthcoming. Far better is to
telephone in advance with your special needs.
Many airfields however, do make it
difficult for someone in a wheelchair to access all facilities. One large
airfield in the UK, for instance, has built a wonderful new restaurant
with interior ramps, special toilets etc. but has left a 4" step to
actually enter the facility. Disabled aircraft parking would be a jolly
good idea too.
here are some of the specialist
by far the best site
http://www.bhpa.co.uk/Flyability-web-site/Training-pilots.htm (for microlights)
(about Visionair hand controls)