IMPACT
07/23/2010 01:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Aerobility, UK Charity, Helps The Disabled Get In The Cockpit

At 30 years old, Nathan Doidge is confined to a wheelchair, suffering from cerebral palsy. He works hard to suppress random muscle spasms that prevent him from completing daily tasks. But thanks to the UK-based charity Aerobility, Doidge is able to do something he never thought possible: fly a plane entirely on his own.

The charity, formerly known as The British Disabled Flying Association, aims to have disabled adults and children get in the cockpit and fly. Aerobility gives anyone a chance to operate some part of a flight, offering 45 minute flying trials to people suffering from a disabling disease, spinal injury, amputation, multiple sclerosis, or learning and sensory disabilities.

"We work with every disability," [Aerobility Chief Executive Mike] Miller-Smith said. "We never turn anyone away."

Aerobility's history stretches back to the mid-1990s when it was a group that helped pilots regain their skills and pilot licenses after serious injuries. In 2000, the group became a nonprofit and has since devoted itself to sharing the magic of flight with the seriously ill.

Last year Aerobility helped nine students make solo trips. Five have become licensed pilots through determination and hard work.

When Doidge was asked about his experiences, he said flying was difficult, but thrilling.

"Every time you get a step further, it feels like 'OK, you've done that,'" he said.
Doidge flies using a special, hand-operated rudder.

"I'm using the hand control less and less," he says.

Aerobility charges around £50 ($77) per flight, but the group does not charge those who cannot afford the fee. Help someone take flight and become a sponsor.