Karen Cox, from Lossiemouth, took on her biggest ever challenge by enrolling for the Flying Scholarships for Disabled People, a charity set up in 1983 in memory of WWII legend Douglas Bader.
Their mission is to inspire disabled adults, building their confidence, self-esteem and future aspirations through life-changing aviation experiences.
When she completed her course she returned to the presentation to officially receive her ‘wings’ at the Royal International Air Tattoo a major surprise awaited – she was also awarded the FSDP’s ‘Wings Around the World’ Trophy, presented annually to “the female scholar who, inspired by the achievements of Polly Vacher, showed the highest determination to achieve success in her attempt to learn to fly”.
Vacher is an English aviator who specialised in long-distance solo flying. She obtained a private pilot licence in 1994 in Australia and immediately set about circumnavigating the continent. She went on to fly over the North Pole and all seven continents.
Before her scholarship Karen was reluctant to be seen as disabled and would avoid using her wheelchair or mobility scooter. She also struggled with self-confidence and anxiety meaning she rarely went out alone.
Karen said: “The whole process of learning to fly and being so far out of my comfort zone was extremely daunting, but it seemed to completely reprogramme my brain. I have learnt not to overthink things and take everything one step at a time.
“That process has helped me manage my anxiety. Kknowing I can fly an aeroplane has given me the confidence to challenge myself with other things. It has literally opened the doors to my world.
“If I can inspire just one more disabled person to apply for a scholarship, then I will be very happy. Once you reach for the sky, life is never the same again.”
Bayliss, FSDP’s chairman, said: “The Wings around the World salver is awarded each year to a female scholar to whom the Trustees feel has
achieved the most from her scholarship.
“As you can imagine, determining the scholar who has achieved the greatest life changing experience is very difficult as, without
exception, we watch as each and every one of our scholars goes on to ‘reach for the sky’.
“However, we felt that although Karen appeared outwardly confident, she was struggling at the start of her scholarship
to even accept her disability.
“Since completing her flying training she has continued to accept and take on new challenges, holidaying abroad being just one thing she had
been apprehensive about doing before.”
To find out more on Flying Scholarships for Disabled People, visit their website. www.fsdp.co.uk.
Closing date for this year’s applications is November 30.