Hot-Air Balloonist Flies Despite Visual Limitations

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Jamie Weller, 36, of Nottingham, U.K., is working to pass all the tests required to qualify as a hot-air balloon pilot -- but his hardest obstacle may be to obtain a medical certificate. Weller lost most of his vision due to a genetic condition that deteriorated when he was in the Royal Navy. He's taking lessons anyway, and says flying gives him a sense of freedom and achievement. "My safety person -- my co-pilot -- acts as my eyes," he told the BBC News. The co-pilot warns Weller about obstacles and advises him about landing areas. "I use my other senses ... I feel the balloon and respond to the balloon as I am flying it. I feel the wind in my face that gives me input on wind direction. ... It's always been a dream for me to fly -- it is such an achievement for me to do this." The Civil Aviation Authority told the BBC they are reviewing Weller's case and will do what they can to accommodate his desire to fly. The agency said it has supported many disabled flyers in gaining a license, "providing the necessary safety levels can be achieved."