Talk about flying in the face of adversity! British non-profit Flying for Freedom, which helps wounded servicemen and women, is soon to break new ground with the first Microlight expedition to the South Pole. When we heard about this program, we were quite simply inspired. Flying for Freedom is a “Battle Back” project, providing wounded, injured and sick (WIS) servicemen and women with the opportunity to learn to fly flexwing microlights. The project delivers flying training at the Cotswold Airport in Kemble. But their latest announcement is one that is sure to get notice around the world as they attempt something that’s never been done, by anyone.
To launch the project, 12 injured servicemen and women are being filmed for a TV Documentary while they train and qualify as pilots. Learning to fly a Microlight has proved to be excellent rehabilitation, providing a focus on flying that allows them to overcome the obstacles of physical and psychological trauma.
Once qualified as pilots, the first years intakes will provide air experience flights for disadvantaged youth in support of the National Lottery Big Fund. Some of the recruits have also decided to pursue a Flying Instructors license and will stay on with the project to train future intakes from Battle Back to establish a permanent flying legacy.
Then comes the ultimate challenge in what’s being called the British Antarctic Microlight Expedition (BAME), which will raise awareness about Flying for Freedom’s legacy project and be the culmination to the TV story. It will also establish several firsts, such as:
- First to fly a microlight in Antarctica
- First to fly a microlight to the South Pole
- First to fly a microlight over Mt Vinson
This daring expedition will be undertaken by eight wounded and injured servicemen, designed to bring awareness to Britain and British Business on the urgent need to build self-sustaining activities that get veterans back into work and daily life.
The First Microlight Expedition to the South Pole
In partnership with Help for Heroes, the expedition will show their ability – not their disability – as they each fly by microlight to the South Pole. The expedition is receiving full support from Battle Back and has been granted passage on HMS Protector to the pole.
The South Pole attempt will be the culmination of five years planning, training and testing. With support from sponsors and supporters they can deploy to Antarctica in December 2014 for an attempt on the South Pole in Jan 2015.
This video highlights the importance of the program — why losing a limb serving your country doesn’t mean you can’t fly or have to give up on your dreams:
Why the long wait?
The expedition is a huge technical challenge as it has never been attempted before, so modifications or brand new designs need to be created in order to complete the mission. Organizers say this is a great opportunity for business and industry to get involved and get creative. From converted snowmobile helmets to newly designed prosthetics, the equipment has to be extremely light, but robust enough to withstand the rigors of the coldest place on earth.
For safety and servicing reasons they hope to take a minimum of five aircraft, likely to be P&M PulsR Microlights that are open cockpit, but have a full fronted visor. Wheels will be replaced with snow boards for landing and small metal fittings need to be tested, alongside ideas to warm the engine prior to starting. The biggest change will be the total replacement of the wiring loom and fuel lines, as rubberised wiring becomes brittle and crumbles away over time in Antarctic temperatures.
- The route will take the men and women down the Antarctic Peninsula from the Coast. They will lay fuel depots and equipment by air across Palmer Land and forward to Union Glacier.
- From Union Glacier Richard Meredith-Hardy will lead an attempt to overfly the summit of Mt Vinson (16, 067 ft), the highest peak on the Antarctic continent.
- From Union Glacier the route will curve down across the and a landing at the South Pole.
- Following the obligatory photo call at the South Pole, the team will back track to Union Glacier for an extraction by air charter to Chile.
For more information, to donate, or to get involved, head here: www.fly2pole.com.