Trust Helps Disabled People 'Reach for the Sky'
Published: 22 Aug 2016
The annual Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP) presentation ceremony was held on Sunday 10 July at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).
Since launching in 1983, FSDP has awarded flying scholarships to nearly 400 disabled people. The challenge of learning to fly enables scholars to gain new skills, regain confidence and experience the joy of freedom in the air.
This year the RAF Charitable Trust (RAFCT) sponsored three of the 11 scholarships awarded, with one dedicated to the memory of Air Commodore David Bywater. Involved with the Air Tattoo since 1989, David became a Non-Executive Director of the RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises in 2005 until his passing in 2015.
His widow, Mrs Shelagh Bywater, attended the ceremony and described the dedication as a "huge honour". She said, "He was terribly enthusiastic about the flying scholarships because it gave such a springboard for disabled people and it gave them the oomph that they needed to feel that they could do it."
Hosted in the Lockheed Martin chalet, the presentation ceremony was attended by the charity's patron HRH Prince Feisal bin al Hussein of Jordan, scholars, their families, guests and supporters. Prince Feisal awarded FSDP wings to last year's scholars and presented scholarships to the successful 2016 candidates. Stuart Campbell, Karen Cox and Adrian Walton were recipients of the three RAFCT scholarships for 2016. As a young man, Adrian joined the RAF regiment but suffered a serious Land Rover accident, which left him wheelchair bound.
Due to start flying training the day after the ceremony, he said, "I'm looking forward to the challenge. I think it will boost my confidence. It's brilliant to be on level terms with other people learning to fly because it's something I never thought I would do, even though I was in the RAF."
The charity was set up by RIAT to honour the indomitable spirit of Gp Capt Sir Douglas Bader. Sir Douglas lost both his legs in a flying accident but overcame his disability to become a famed Spitfire pilot during World War II. A gifted leader of men and staunch supporter of disabled people, he was President of the Tattoo from 1976 until his death in 1982.
HRH Prince Feisal gave a closing speech urging continued support of the charity and outlining the importance of their work. Of the scholars, he said, "These are people we can celebrate, these are real heroes and I want you to recognise them for that and join us in helping them on their journey."