Wounded Scottish war veterans take to sky with Help for Heroes

Injured war veterans are taking to the skies as microlight pilots after training from a Scottish charity.

Injured war veterans are taking to the skies as microlight pilots after training from a Scottish charity.

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Injured war veterans are taking to the skies as microlight pilots after training from a Scottish charity.

Injured war veterans are taking to the skies as microlight pilots after training from a Scottish charity.

Flying for freedom - Darren Ames

Flying for freedom - Darren Ames

Organised by Help for Heroes, the country’s first Flying for Freedom event encouraged wounded and sick ex-servicemen and women to take part in flight training to aid their rehabilitation.

The first event last month, partly organised by the Scottish Aero Club, was such a success that organisers are considering a permanent base at Perth Airport.

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Injured veteran Darren Ames, of Airdrie was discharged following 20 years service after receiving serious back and knee injuries while serving in Kosovo and Iraq with the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

He also has PTSD and had barely left his house for three years before his maiden flight.

He said: “This is just a wonderful experience, I feel alive again.

“I have been stuck in the house for three years and done nothing. This has given me a focus again and the courage to get out for the first time. It was such a buzz to see the scenery of Scotland from the sky. I would love to do it again and even train as an instructor one day.”

Veteran Jim Kettles, who served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from 1991 to 1996 and has PTSD along with cold weather injuries, said: “It was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone. Once you are up there, it is fantastic, a feeling of total freedom.”

Mary Wilson, from Edinburgh, who served all over the world as a nurse in the army for 20 years, was badly injured when she was thrown from a horse during a riding course in 2000 and was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004.

“Microlighting enables you to feel free and be at peace with yourself and the world. It is possible to fly with almost any disability and your inner strength and confidence comes to the fore. I would recommend anybody to have a go,” she said.

James Harris, co-founder of Flying for Freedom, said they were given such a good reception by the Scottish Aero Club that they are considering setting up a base there to enable even more veterans in Scotland to enjoy the life-changing experience.

He explained: “We had to change to Perth from East Fortune at the last minute due to the weather and they looked after us really well. It’s a great, central location and the club is very keen that we use their facilities again. We hope to build on that relationship to make a more permanent arrangement so we can take more Scottish folk up.”

Norman Sutherland, a director of the Scottish Aero Club (SAC) said: “We were delighted to welcome the Flying For Freedom team to our base at Perth Airport when the Scottish weather risked scuppering their original plans! The multiple runways at Perth allowed the team to land safely and provided an ideal central location.

“We were very happy to put our resources at their disposal and have subsequently developed lasting friendships that we hope will see the Scottish Aero Club and Perth Airport becoming an established focal point for the charity’s microlight flying activities in Scotland.”

Mary, who found support through Help for Heroes, was selected to take part in the Warrior Games in America in 2013 and 2015 and the Invictus Games in 2014.

She now hopes to encourage other veterans to get involved with sport through Help for Heroes.

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