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"Grounded, but not for long!"
Thinking back, I had my perfect lifestyle..... Flying was a childhood ambition, and one that I would only realise at the age of 35! I graduated as a Graphic designer in 1977. I had spent some 10 years in the Royal Navy, followed by 3 years in the Sultan of Oman's Navy. It was over an innocent conversation with an ex Royal Air force pilot on a beach in Oman that finally got my aviation career off the ground.
A year later I found myself in Florida embarking on a professional pilots course with zero hours to my credit! I graduated from a simple American registered Cessna 152 in 1992 to a Boeing 747-200 in 1999. Along the way I had had the privilege of piloting Piper Seminole's and Seneca's, Jetstream 31's, Fokker 50's-and British Aerospace 146's and in so doing accrued some 4,500 hours.
...there I was First Officer with Virgin Atlantic, piloting a 370 tonne Boeing 747 and a part time fitness instructor. I had bought a penthouse flat in Bournemouth in the July of 2000. I played at windsurfing and mountain hiking on my days off. I had it all..... until Sunday 7 January 2001 that is.
On that fateful day I ran off the road on black ice, and in so doing broke my back at thoracic vertebra 3/4. My lesion was certified complete, which meant that I was now paralysed, permanently, from the middle of my chest down. It was without doubt the most difficult time of my life. To put it simply, I wanted my life to end.
It was another innocent comment made by my father that changed the way I was looking at life. He said simply, "Take this experience as yet another phase of your life, a phase that will eventually come to an end." I slept on that comment over night, and in the morning decided i had to move forward.
I went through rehabilitation with Salisbury District Hospital, finally moving to Rickmansworth in January 2002, exactly a year after my accident! Most of 2002 was spent getting myself as fit as I could as well as involving myself in a number of research projects, mainly involved with the repair of spinal cord.
Being a goal orientated person, when 2003 came I needed a new direction. My thoughts once again turned to the possibility of flying. I learnt that a company existed in Wiltshire which could possibly give me that opportunity back. So I booked a trial flight on my birthday, and never looked back!
APT literally gave me my wings back. It has been a very emotional journey. To have had the opportunity to once again sit in the cockpit of an aircraft that you are solely in command of, to listen to the familiar aviators chit chat over the radio, to feel the unique movement of three dimensional air travel and once again see the familiar sights from a cockpit as you leave the ground and as you return for landing, all this has been as moving experience as my very first solo flight over 10 years ago and one I will remember for the rest of my life.
Read about Robin's other exploits in the swimming pool.
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