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THE ANNUAL presentation ceremony for Flying Scholarships for the Disabled took place at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, when 17 scholars were presented with their wings, certificates and flying jackets.

The successful scholars received their awards in the presence of FSD Patron HRH Prince Feisal of Jordan and Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, Chief of the Air Staff, along with the 2010 scholars who were away training at the time of last year's ceremony.

Edwin Brenninkmeyer, who succeeded Alan Smith as chairman of the Trustees of FSD at the start of the year, welcomed scholars, their families and guests.

This year, nine scholarships were awarded, giving scholars the chance to learn to fly in the USA or in England. Two of the scholars, Helen Saxon Jones and Dave Cooper are currently training at Purdue University's Flying School near Chicago, but the others were at RAF Fairford to receive their awards, along with two 2009 scholars Sarah Jenkins and Dan Rovnick.

Certificates and flying suits were presented by HRH Prince Feisal and Sir Stephen Dalton. These went to Vin Lloyd Williams, Stuart Spink, Martin Sabry, Tony Brealey, Lee Pirie, Waqas Zaib, Jason Beaumont.

The George Stewart Memorial Trophy was also presented. This is awarded to the scholar who's achieved the most as a result of being awarded a scholarship, and this year the trophy went to Lee Pirie.

Lee, 28, from Leeds, was born with a condition which affects his mobility, but that's done nothing to stem his passion for aviation. He imagined that his dream of flying would be limited to simulators, but after applying to FSD he was delighted to be awarded a scholarship, threw himself into the training and flew solo after 19 hours.

After receiving his trophy, he said: "It's just amazing. Getting the scholarship is something I'll never forget. I love flying because in the air you're as free as a bird. When you are on the ground you notice your disabilities, not all the time but some of the time, but up there in the sky you are the same as everybody else and everybody else is the same as you. It's a fantastic equaliser."

And the Wings around the World Trophy, for the woman who's achieved much from the flight training experience, was awarded to Barbara Towler. Barbara was left a paraplegic after a horse-racing accident 16 years ago, which ended her RAF career and shattered her self-esteem. Being awarded the FSD Scholarship helped her regain her self-respect and find new interests.

She wrote: "It was a fabulous experience. I am so grateful to all of you who put your faith in me and made this possible"

The trophy was accepted on her behalf by her brother Lt Col George Chesney as Barbara was unable to attend after breaking her arm.

The ceremony concluded with a special presentation, in appreciation of the efforts of Peter Thorn, who taught the very first FSD scholars in 1985, introduced round-the-world aviator Polly Vacher to the organisation, and attends Selections at RAF Cranwell every year to show candidates the way around a light aircraft. Peter received his trophy from HRH Prince Feisal.

And finally, Prince Feisal received a cheque from Jenny Bayliss, daughter of FSD Trustee Keith Bayliss, with the money being raised by Jenny's house at Kings School, Worcester, for the charity of their choice.

Flying Scholarships for the Disabled (FSD) website

August 4, 2011

“It was an epic spectacle, as magical as anything you've ever seen in the West End, and as loud as anything you've ever heard at Knebworth.”

Jeremy Clarkson, Television Presenter

“All the thrills, excitement and noise of a Grand Prix, but in the air!”

Jenson Button, Formula 1 Racing Driver

“This is the best airshow!”

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut

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