Mark with Aerobility Instructor Annalise
As a child Mark always wanted to fly but was unable to become an Army Helicopter Pilot due to the lack of educational support he received during his time in the care system.
Mark was passionate about serving in the Armed Forces so became an Infantryman serving for 6 years he then served in Army Intelligence including tours in Northern Ireland and Falkland Islands.
Between 1988 and 1989 he was medically discharged with knee damage and degenerative spinal disease caused by heavy lifting and other activities linked with his role.
Mark retrained and had a very successful career in Social Work with young people with learning disabilities.
6 years ago Mark was paralysed from the waist down with two collapsed vertebrae. It took Mark a year to walk again and he needed 4 major spine operations. Although the surgery was successful he has complications including Intermittent Paralysis (up to 4-5 times / day) and severe pain. Despite a very supportive Employer this led to Mark being unable to work for Health and Safety reasons. Mark had always been very active but also had to stop his marathon running and white water and sea kayaking Coaching.
During this challenging time Mark's wife remembered his passion as a child for flying and bought him a trial flying lesson with Aerobility in our specially adapted plane where Mark can switch to hand controls if needed. Mark enjoyed the lesson so much he came back for 4 more lessons and successfully applied for a £2,500 grant from Help for Heroes towards his lessons.
Wearing his ‘I fly planes – scary isn’t it’ tee-shirt Mark says ‘during the week I look forward to Fridays and my flying lesson. When I have had a bad week and been in a lot of pain just sitting in the aeroplane makes my day. For the first time I have control over something; it’s just me with no medical professionals telling what I can and can't do. It has been a massive lift to my self-esteem and mental health. When I am flying I feel released from all my problems. I know if I am having a bad week that I can always book an additional lesson. If it wasn’t for Aerobility and Help for Heroes I don’t know how my wife and I would cope.’
Mark has now completed 14 hours of flying over 14 lessons and is working to overcome health and safety restrictions so that he can fly solo, gain his commercial pilot rating and become an Instructor teaching people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities to fly. ‘Because I put my family through so much the thought of flying my wife and three children down to see my family in Sandown, Isle of Wight is really motivating me to achieve my Private Pilot’s License (PPL).'