Polly Vacher

If you were planning the ideal trip around the world in your airplane, you would want Jeppesen to help you with flight planning and government paperwork, Shell to provide 100LL and W100 wherever you went, local dignitaries to greet and host you, local media to help you promote general aviation, and to top it all off your trip would raise a lot of money for your favorite charity. That's the trip Polly Vacher took earlier this year. Starting with less than a thousand hours in her logbook, she flew every leg of her 29,000-mile trip as she had planned it, and raised over $200,000 for Flying Scholarships for the Disabled. In this month's Profile, AVweb's Joe Godfrey talks with Polly about her Wings Around the World Solo Challenge.

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Polly VacherPolly Vacher was born January 13,1944, in Paignton, England, and spent her childhood in the rolling hills andsunny beaches of Devonshire. She trained as a physiotherapist, then as a musicteacher, married, and raised three sons. Her attraction to flying began in 1989when she skydived to raise money for a charity, and she subsequently logged 245jumps. In the early ’90s her husband’s job took them to Australia for two years,and both of them decided to learn to fly. With about 80 hours each in theirlogbooks, they rented a Piper Dakota and flew another 84 hours around Australia.Back in England, they bought a Dakota and continued flying. Polly got herinstrument rating while her husband Peter — who calls himself a"fair-weather flyer" — got interested in the maintenance of theairplane.

In 1997 Polly flew the Dakota across the North Atlantic while Peter took theairlines, and they toured the U.S. and Canada in their airplane. Having logged acouple of cross-continent trips and two North Atlantic crossings, a flightaround the world seemed like the next logical step, so Polly decided to plan atrip around the world to raise money to give flying lessons to disabled persons.She knew that learning to fly can give a disabled person a healthy dose ofself-esteem and often the ability to look past the disability. The trip took twoyears to plan, even with the help of the BritishWomens’ Pilots Association and an enviable list of sponsors — includingShell, Jeppesen, and Hartzell. When she landed in Jordan, she was greeted byQueen Noor — daughter of former FAA Administrator Najeeb Halaby. When shecompleted the trip in Birmingham, she was escorted by two Harriers. At everystop she was greeted by local dignitaries and media. All told, the WingsAround the World Solo Challenge encompassed 29,000 miles, including a2,068-mile/16-hour leg from Hawaii to California, and raised over $200,000 forFlying Scholarships for the Disabled. She’s already planning her next challenge.


Who was Sir Douglas Bader?

He was a pilot in the Royal Air Force before the Second World War. He had aflying accident and lost both his legs, and when the war came they weredesperate for pilots. So he went back with his two artificial legs and said,"I can fly," and they said, "No you can’t," and he said,"Yes, I can," and, in effect, he persuaded them ’cause they weredesperate for pilots. He flew Hurricanes and Spitfires all through WWII, and heshot down enough enemy aircraft to become an ace. After the war he worked veryhard to encourage disabled people to overcome their disabilities. He was thechief executive of Shell Aviation, and that’s why Shell was one of my sponsors.He was very involved with the biggest military airshow in the world — the RoyalInternational Air Tattoo — and actually helped run it. I think he waschairman of it.

When he died in 1983 the volunteers who helped run the Tattoo wanted to dosomething in his memory. They knew he wasn’t the kind of guy who’d like astatue, so they set up this scholarship scheme really to perpetuate hisindomitable spirit. King Hussein of Jordan knew SirDouglas Bader and also became a patron of this flying scholarship scheme andprovided a lot of the scholarships until the year he died. When he died thefunding stopped, although Queen Noor is still a patron. I’d become involved withthe scheme before the King died, but when he died my husband and I decided wewould raise a lot of money to invest and endow an annual scholarship so it couldrun on just the interest.

Is there a disability in your family that prompted this interest?

I was originally trained as a physiotherapist but didn’t particularly like itand I worked in physiotherapy only for two years. Then I trained as a musicteacher — I was always a musician first and foremost — and spent the rest ofmy life teaching music. Music is in our blood. My father was a brilliantorganist, pianist, flautist and horn player — my brother was first bassoon withthe Halle Orchestra. I have always sung — soprano — and have taught piano forover 20 years. I now don’t have time to teach, but I play two-piano duets with afriend regularly and every so often we work up a concert, which is fun. BothPeter and I love going to the Opera and Concerts. I’ve now become involved withthe Flying For Disabled and I tend to feel very comfortable with disabledpeople. I try to look past the disability and see them as people.

When did you decide to fly around the world?

  Polly
  Diving for dollars.

In 1989 I did a sponsored skydive to raise money for charity. It was a tandemjump — I was attached to an instructor. I thought I would absolutely lose it,and absolutely fell in love with it, took up skydiving, and got 245 skydives. Myhusband and I have been married now for 35 years, and get on very well, butnothing would induce my husband to leap out of a perfectly serviceable airplane,so we decided to learn to fly together. At the time we were living in Australiaand got our licenses there. When we each had about 80 hours we hired a brand newPiper Dakota, which had been flown over to Australia from America. We flew allaround the whole of the circumference of Australia and up the center to AyresRock and Alice Springs and across the Simpson Desert. It’s very brave of them tohire out such a new airplane to two novices, but we had a great time, and we did84 hours of actually flying around Australia, and didn’t put a single mark onthe aircraft, so we were very pleased. I landed on dirt strips and Aboriginalsettlements and all sorts of great places.

Having done this long trip ’round Australia— my husband’s job took us overthere for nearly two years — we then came back to live in England and, lo andbehold, we saw advertised another type of Dakota two serial numbers away fromthe one we’d hired and taken around Australia. We hadn’t intended to buy anairplane, but I’m afraid that was just too much for us, so we did. I wasabsolutely hooked by flying, while my husband was more interested in themechanics and how it works. He calls himself a fair-weather flyer, whereas Iwent on and got my instrument rating.

We’d already planned to hire an airplane and fly around the States andCanada, and when I was doing my instrument training over here in Bristol, myinstructor said "Why are you hiring an airplane? You’ve got a perfectlygood one yourself." That was a germ of an idea which grew and grew, and in1997 I flew the aircraft to America across the North Atlantic. My husband flewover on a 747, and we took out the extra tanking and flew around the States andCanada. Then I put back the tank and I flew back across the North Atlantic. Sohaving done that, which was a big challenge, the next big challenge was to flyaround the world.

What was the reaction of your family and friends?

All my family are in aviation in one way or another. My oldest son is a 747pilot for Virgin Atlantic and my middle son works for Pratt and Whitney inHartford, Connecticut. He also has his private license and is just about to dohis helicopter private license, as well. My youngest son is the cameraman forthe British Womens’ Skydiving Team. So we’re all into aviation.

Did you teach your sons to fly?

No, in fact the son who flies 747s actually started his career as ahelicopter pilot in the North Sea flying the oil rigs, because that was how hecould get sponsorship for his training. It’s very, very expensive to learn tofly, especially in this country, and, most young people can’t afford it so theylook around for ways and means. He flew six years over the North Sea, and inthat time he paid for his own fixed wing license. Then, of course, the airlineshave great respect for North Sea pilots ’cause they can fly in such terribleconditions so they all find it quite easy to get jobs afterwards.

Once you decided to make the trip, how did you go about lining up sponsorsand getting media coverage to generate the scholarship money?

I got together a group of British women pilots who belong to the BritishWomens’ Pilots Association — the equivalent of the 99s — and we formed afundraising committee with the idea of raising money for the scholarshipscheme. We ran one or two smaller fundraising events and one very big one atthe Imperial War Museum at Duxford, and weraised 65,000 in one evening. It was a flying display, a ball, and a champagnereception, and we had my aircraft in the corner of the tent that we had the bigdinner in. Queen Noor was there, and she signed the wing, and, there were a lotof corporate people who took tables — British Airways, Shell, all that aviationpeople — and we launched the around-the-world flight at this event. Because itwas for the Flying for Disabled and because people could see that we couldorganize an event very well, that gave us a bit of free press, so almost fromthere on they all came and asked me to be sponsors. Shell provided all the fueland where there wasn’t fuel they made sure that fuel was shipped in, and theEuropean branch of Jeppesen did all my maps and charts and all the flightclearances and handling.

The first thing I learned about sponsorship was it’s not going out and askingpeople to give you something. You’re offering them something back — you have toor they’re not interested. The only thing I could offer a big company likeJeppesen or Shell was publicity. When I went to cross the Atlantic not tellinganybody apart from my friends — I didn’t speak to a journalist — and I had tosuddenly become a public person, which in itself created quite a lot ofproblems. I was actually quite nervous, even to speak into a voicemail answeringmachine, so I went off and did a media course and learned how to cope withtelevision and radio. You’ve got to face the things you can’t do very well andfind a way of doing them.

A trip like this is such a total project. It’s not just getting in yourairplane and going. I’ve had so many emails since I got back, from people whosay, "We’d like to do this. Can you give me some advice?" It’s acomplete project and it’s a lot of hard work. It took me two years and I workedvery hard and got together a team that supported me enormously, and I workedvery hard as well, and we were doing it for charity. Everybody’s working fornothing — right down to the photographer who was looking after and collatingthe photographs I was emailing back. They all were sponsors in a way. We justwhipped up their enthusiasm for it.

It’s a very impressive list of sponsors, but Piper and Textron are notthere, even though you flew their airplane and their engine. Did they turn youdown?

No, because I didn’t really go and ask anybody. It came to me, more or less.A lot of these people didn’t give me money but they gave me things in kind.Hartzell, for instance, gave me a propeller. I met Chuck Suma, the chiefexecutive of Piper only last week, and I said to him, "Why don’t you makemore Piper Dakotas?" and he said, "We’re designing a replacement forit." So I think having met Chuck, Piper might support me for anotherventure.

About how many women are in the British Womens’ Pilots Association?

Oh, about 350 or 400, which is quite good ’cause private flying is verydifficult in this country. It’s very, very expensive and there’s so much in theway of traffic and airways and restricted airspace. You’ve got to be prettydetermined to do a lot of flying over here, as indeed I am.

Apparently. Many of us plan this kind of trip in our daydreams, so give ussome hints. How did you plan the route? Were there places you knew not to go andother places that you knew not to miss? How did you carve this big trip up intolittle pieces?

The most difficult thing was how to cross the Pacific, so I spoke to ferrypilots and people who had flown it, and people who fly it regularly. I’m a greatbeliever in taking advice because if you take a lot of advice you can absorb itlike a sponge and then you use the bits that are suitable and appropriate forwhat you’re doing. So I started my route with planning the Pacific, and theisland hops that I had to do. Those legs were the ones that frightened me mostwhen I was actually doing it, because they’re such vast areas of water, and youreally don’t want anything to happen when you’ve only got one engine. ThePacific was the most psychologically difficult challenge of the whole flight, soI started by plotting that. Then when I got the routes that worked within myrange I started finding out if I could get fuel and if I could land there. Fijihad had some political problems and I hoped that wouldn’t blow up just when Iwas going. I knew I wanted to go to Australia because I’ve got a lot of friendsin Australia, and I’ve flown lots in Australia. So I was working backwards.

I had flown the Atlantic, so I knew the North Atlantic route, and we’d flownaround the States and Canada. Then I could join Australia to Europe in becauseI’d flown in Europe — not a lot but quite a bit — and I wanted to get toJordan because of King Hussein and Queen Noor’s involvement with the charity. Soit was important to go to Jordan, then I find I can’t fly direct to Jordanbecause you can’t fly from Israel to Jordan or over Israel to Jordan because ofthe political situation. So you then either go down through Egypt or up acrossSyria, and I opted for Syria because I think it was possibly less of a problemto fly over Syria than to fly over Egypt.

My first sponsor is Jeppesen and they said, "We hear what you’re doing,we like the sound of it, come and talk to us," and they gave me all my mapsand charts and organized the overflight clearances. So from then onwards Iplanned with their help.

So when you left England you pretty much knew your route and had all yourpaperwork and overflight permits taken care of for the whole trip?

  Polly
  Crossing and dotting.

I didn’t step into an aircraft ’til I was 100% sure that everything was sortedout. I had actually plotted each of my legs five times, so the first time Iplotted the whole route — putting all the bits and pieces together — it tookme two full weekends working all day Saturday and all day Sunday. The secondtime I did it it took me probably a weekend and a half, and the third time I didit in a weekend, and the fifth time even I was picking up little things that I’dmissed. Each flight plan had a loose leaf cover and was sitting there ready forme to pull out with all the maps and charts associated.

Did you change plans en route?

Not at all.

You flew every mile the way you planned it?

Absolutely, it all worked out absolutely as planned. It pays to put the workin beforehand — and it’s fun to try to get everything perfect. You never can’cause we’re all human beings, but, actually, you can get quite a high standardof perfection if you really try and try again.

Did you read memoirs of people that had flown around the world?

I was not really trying to emulate them ’cause it was quite a differentthing. I wasn’t trying to beat any record, although actually it was the smallestaircraft flown solo by a woman on that route — ’round Australia and the Pacific— but I have to add it was the smallest, not the first, ’cause Sheila Scott didit and various other women have done ’round the world, but not by that route.

But I’m not really interested in that, and I’m not interested in speed.Obviously, it was a personal challenge. I wanted to do it — it would be crazyto do it if I didn’t want to — but I had such a mission with Flying ForDisabled. Everywhere I went I was met and had receptions and dinners and I gavetalks. I was taken to disabled schools and places for disabled people, and I sawwhat was going on around the world, and that was really exciting. Some countriesdon’t have private flying at all, but flying is introduced to disabled people.

Typically a person’s life has fallen apart after becoming severely disabledfrom an accident in the prime of their life, or perhaps they have underachieveddue to disability from birth. A flying scholarship presents an intellectual andphysical challenge they never remotely believed they could overcome. By doing sothey gain confidence and self-esteem. This can lead to getting a job, maybe forthe first time. The courage and determination of the scholars is both humblingand inspirational. There was such a lot of interest and support all the wayaround the world, and about six countries are trying to get a similar schemegoing as a result.

Tell us about the reception with Queen Noor in Jordan.

I had a fantastic time in Jordan. I spent five days there because I thoughtit’s best to spend longer there. Their tourist board looked after me and took meto all sorts of wonderful sights in Jordan, then I had a fantastic receptionwhere I met Prince Hamzah and Prince Faisal and the British ambassador and theambassador from Greece. One of the highlights in Jordan — and this is like theother end of the scale — was we were just standing out by one of the crusadercastles and we suddenly spotted a real Bedouin tent. I was just commenting on itto my guide and this wizened old lady came out from the tent and beckoned usinside. They put down mats on the floor, and we sat cross-legged on the floorand drank tea with this lady, who didn’t speak a work of English. But weconversed with smiles and gestures, and she had nothing, really, except a tentand this mat to put on the floor — no television, nothing like that — and itwas the other extreme. That was one of the highlights — to be invited intosomeone’s Bedouin tent. Jordan’s a very special place because it’s got a lot ofhistory and a lot of biblical history.

Speaking of surviving in the desert, tell us how you prepared forsurviving the various climates you were crossing?

I had to find what I could here in England, and I did a course in the Lakedistrict, which isn’t exactly simulating desert or jungle. It’s cold and wet upthere, it has a great reputation for rain and didn’t let me down at all. We hadfive days up there with two ex-Marine commanders who gave us one hell of a time.There were three of us on the course — two guides and myself — and we took ahuge backpack with all our gear in it and one poncho thing, and we’d walkthrough bogs and marshes for miles. We did night exercises and we had to makeour ponchos into tents and get into them.

They made us eat things off the land so we made a worm and bullrush stew.Right now I can laugh at it but there were many times that I felt like sittingdown and bursting into tears and just saying "I can’t do this," thenI’d think I’ve only got to do it for five days, and if I really do get stuck inthe desert or jungle I would be up against it much more than this. We hadtramped all day, half the night, on just a little sleep, we were soaking wet andfreezing and awful, so it was just hell on earth, really. They told us aboutbeing kidnapped and how to cope, and the psychology of it all. So I did finishit, and it taught me a lot, and when I’d done it I was really was pleased.

Earlier you said that psychologically the long legs were the hardest. Whatgoes through your mind when you’re over water for so long?

When I left Coffs Harbor I thought there was a lot sitting in front of me —and if you look at a globe or a map you’ll see how much water it is. My husbandgave me a bit of advice which I thought was quite good. He said, "Take offoverweight from Australia" — cause I didn’t really need to take offoverweight there — but he said, "If something happens, then they’ll be alot of people who can look after you." So the night before I left CoffsHarbor I remember just thinking, "My God, I’m never going to get out ofhere alive," and at each end of the runway at Coffs Harbor there’s a littlehill, and I thought "I’m just not going to get over that." I wasreally giving myself such a bad time.

How much over gross were you?

Well, on the worst leg I was about 20% overweight, but she just took off likea dream, climbing at 500 feet a minute — no problem. So that gave me a lot ofconfidence as well, taking off from Australia overweight and finding she wouldactually do it. Hawaii to California is the biggest leg to fly without anythingin between — it’s 2,068 nautical miles — and I thought when I got to Hawaii Iwould have a few days to recover, but I rang up Jeppesen’s weather people andthey said, "You’ve got to go tomorrow because the winds are in your favor,and it won’t be after tomorrow. You might not get it for another 10 days orso," so I had a very short night’s sleep and fueled the aircraft as full asI could and set off in the middle of the day in the heat of the day. I wasreally worried I wasn’t going to take off, and she took off in under half therunway and was climbing at 500 feet a minute — absolutely no problem at all.

That leg took 16 hours, and nine of those hours were in darkness. I got icingat 9,000 feet halfway through the night when I went into a cold front, so I hadto descend to 7,000 where the winds weren’t so good, but we get a lot of icingexperience over here, so we’re used to coping with it. At least when you’re overthe sea you can go lower and lower without touching anything.

Then just before the dawn came I saw a really strange phenomenon. There was amost beautiful half-moon shining out across the water and it was just stunning.And way back from it and slightly to the side of it was an identical moon —there were two moons. I couldn’t believe it, and I kept thinking I was goingloopy. I looked in the cockpit and I couldn’t see two of anything else — am Igoing completely mad? There were just these two moons. I think it must have beensome sort of reflection, but it was just amazing, and for an hour I looked atthese two beautiful moons shining out over the water, and then the sun rose and,luckily, there was only one sun.

  Polly
  Ditching and dunking.

I was busy taking photos when the engine stopped. It was really scary because Ihad miscalculated what fuel I had in the internal auxiliary tank and it ran dry,and I hadn’t expected it. I was busy taking photographs, and I can tell you Iput that camera down and I got the fuel pump on and changed tanks before you hadtime to blink. For a few seconds I thought, "My God, have I really got toput my ditching and dunking training into effect, out here in the Pacific? Idon’t want to be floating around in a life raft and I don’t want to be landingmy aircraft on this water." It was really awful. It hadn’t coughed oranything, it just stopped with no warning.

How well did you calculate? How much gas did you have when you landed inSanta Barbara?

I had over three hours left when I landed. I was really pleased. Actually bythe time the engine stopped I knew I had plenty of fuel — I’d done a lot ofcalculations all the way through point of no return. In fact after a third ofthe route I’d actually figured if I’m a third of the way, I ought to havecovered a third of the time for the amount of fuel I’ve got, and ought to havecovered a third of the distance, and I was 30 miles short. Then I thought,"Oh well, 30 miles isn’t very much. If I kept picking up speed, I should beall right," and then right at the point of no return I knew I was okay.

But even at that point you have to decide, "Do I go on or do I comeback? Which is best?" If you go on, you’ve got to know that you’ve got agood enough wind to get you there. It was still a long time — 16 hours — butit didn’t seem that long at the time, when you’re buoyed up. What I hadn’trealized was that Jeppesen in England had rung San Francisco every hour and gotmy exact position — because you have to give a position report every hour —and they emailed all my friends and family where I was every hour all throughthe night.

Where was the most fun place to fly?

Oh, definitely America. Definitely. Your controllers are so very professionalbut they’re not like policemen, like Australian controllers are. I loveAustralia, but air traffic controllers are dreadful ’cause they don’t have a lotof traffic and they act like sort of policemen, and they tell you off at thefirst opportunity. Whereas in America the controllers are really out to help youand they’re sort of interested in what you’re doing. When you go all around theworld, everybody has different formats and different ways of saying the samething, and if you don’t say it just right the American controllers don’t jumpdown your throat and say "You should say this." They’re just out tohelp you.

Was language ever an issue with ATC anywhere?

In the Arab countries it was more difficult, and when I couldn’t understandwhat they said, I said, "Please spell it." It was more important to goto the right place than to pretend you understand when you don’t.

Where was the worst place to fly?

Apart from the worry of the water in the Pacific — and that sort of ghastlymoment when the engine stops — I guess the most scary place is still the NorthAtlantic because the weather’s unpredictable, especially flying to Greenland. Ichose to go to Narsarsuaq, which is on the southwest corner. You fly 50 miles upa fjord, and at the top it forks and you have to go left, otherwise you go up adead end and the mountains are very high. It’s an NDB approach and the cloud wasreally bad as I approached Greenland and I was getting icing, so I was gettinglower and lower but at least when there’s water you can go down to 50 feet ifyou have to. As you approach Greenland there are three fjords, and it’s very,very difficult to believe you’re going up the right one because the correctfjord actually has a mountain halfway up it and the fjord sort of bends aroundthe mountain. It’s very difficult to believe that’s the right one and you haveto really believe the NDB to get the right fjord. All the time your mind issaying "No, this one looks like the right one" and if you’ve got thewrong fjord you are in big trouble. The scenery is awesome — it’s desolate andfrightening, but it’s absolutely beautiful when you get the sun on it.

I was a little scared going into Indonesia because of the political problemsthey’ve had there, but I actually had a fantastic time in Indonesia. BetweenEngland and Jordan I had dreadful weather, and I was picking up ice all thetime, and I was trying to fly over quite high mountains and fly on top of theclouds so I didn’t pick up ice. Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow women to drive andhere was I getting a visa and landing like an ordinary man. I decided before Ieven left that my flight was non-political, that I wasn’t in the position tocriticize anybody’s culture, but it’s quite difficult and different to fly to acountry where women aren’t even allowed to drive or show any part of their body.I think they thought until I actually arrived that I wouldn’t get a visa, andsuddenly there I was. I would hate that culture myself, but I certainly wouldn’tcriticize them ’cause they really gave me a great time. I was given a house inthe University of Dhahran, my own little house, with a bedroom, sitting room,bathroom, and no key for the front door. Nobody steals over there ’cause they’dhave their hand chopped off, you see. That’s their way and one woman flying incan’t possibly alter the way it is. When you’re in somebody else’s house you tryto behave in conjunction with how they run it. I went out with men all the time— I come from a family of men so I don’t really mind that — and I think afterthe first few hours they forgot I was a woman and we just all chatted and had agreat time.

India was probably one of the most difficult places ’cause there’s all thatbureaucracy. I had to get a boarding pass to get into my own airplane. Then theyhad no fuel in Calcutta, so I got fuel shipped in on a lorry from about 350miles away. Then I thought, "Well, I’ll go the day before I have to leaveand refuel, so I won’t have anything holding me up." It took me eight hoursto get permission to get onto the apron to refuel my own aircraft. I spent thewhole day there. I told them "I’m not leaving this airport ’til I’verefueled my aircraft," so I let them know quite clearly in as polite a wayas I could. I’d been told to wear four stripes on each of my shoulders, and Isaid, "You know, I’m afraid I’m not leaving until I can refuel myaircraft" and I was quite firm about it. It took them eight hours, but Ifinally got permission.

How did this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo acknowledge youraccomplishment?

  Polly
  Aviatrix and AV8.

We have just come back and had such an amazing four days. I had my aircraft inthe static display, and there was a huge amount of interest. As always they heldthe awards ceremony for the RIAT Flying Scholarships for the Disabled. Theawards were given by Prince Faisal this year. Our team presented a cheque for160,000, and we all met the Prince.

The highlight of the whole weekend was just over an hour’s flight in aHarrier Jump Jet. I flew as P2 and had control for most of the flight. We didloops and rolls, and it was all just mind boggling. I felt extremely privileged,and did not sleep a wink last night as I was reliving the flight over and overagain. It was certainly the most exciting flying experience I have EVER had!!The pilot who took me up was Al Pinner. He was the pilot who escorted me for mydeparture for my round the world flight and for my arrival back. I don’t knowwhich one of us enjoyed it more!

The flight culminated with a flight along the crowd line at RIAT. As I waswearing my orange flight suit and the white leather gloves they gave me thecrowd were able to see my wave easily. The experience of being fitted andwearing a ‘G’ suit plus all the ejection equipment was also mind boggling. Wedid so low-level — 50 foot practice bombing raids — and then roared up to20,000 feet in a matter of seconds. It was just a fantastic once-in-a-lifetimeexperience. It will take sometime to get my feet back onto the ground! It seemedvery slow flying G-FRGN home today — but she is still great. The interestingthing about the Harrier is the "head-up" display, which enables you towatch the instruments and look out of the window at the same time, therefore younever need to do more than glance occasionally into the cockpit.

Having logged that, what’s your next challenge?

Well, there will be another challenge, but I really can’t say it now ’causeI’m still researching it and I don’t want to say I’m going to do this until Iknow I can do it.

But you’ve got something specific in your mind?

I certainly do. It’ll take probably another two years or so to get going onit, but this last bit took me two years to plan. I don’t want to say "I’mgoing to do this" and then not be able to.

Well, you know where we are. Tell us when you’re ready.

You’ll hear about it as the time approaches. God willing and I keep my healthand I feel 16.


To make a donation or to apply for a Flying Scholarship for the Disabled, contact…

in the U.S. — Mike Smith, Aero Haven Inc., 500 West Meadow Lane, PO Box 2799, Big Bear City, CA 92314, tel. 909 585 9663

in the UK — Martin Abbott, Leonards Brook Cottage, 1 Old Hill, Avening, Tetbury, Glos GL8 8NR, tel. 44 1453 833481


If you or someone you know has an interesting aviation story to tell, please send an Email to Joe Godfrey.