On Tuesday 12th June, 14 plucky students from Stepping Stones School took to the skies to experience the freedom and exhilaration brought through flight. Blackbushe Airport in Camberley was the host venue for this inaugural event, where Aerobility and Aerosparx combined to offer these young students the opportunity to reach new heights.

Stepping Stones School was founded in 2004 for children with mild to moderate disabilities and after starting with just 3 students it has since established itself as a successful alternative for those struggling to thrive in mainstream education. A victim of its own success, the overwhelming demand for spaces led to the need for expansion and in 2016, with the support of the DFN Foundation, the former home of Arthur Conan Doyle, Undershaw was opened as a secondary school.

It has been found that due to the sensitivity of the controls, flying can help to develop fine motor skills, spatial awareness, coordination and improved confidence. Although students flew in pairs, there was still plenty of ways for those left on solid ground to be involved. For those first-time fliers looking to get a head start or for those individuals who had no intentions of leaving the ground, a virtual reality headset was operating in one of the stationary planes. Using footage that had been collected from a recent flight in Dubai you were able to experience some of the sensations connected to flying itself where the 360 degree cameras meant that you could look around to see the views from all angles. With your vision and hearing immersed into this scenario it was easy to lose perspective about being on the ground and many were seen to reach out in order to adjust the steering or adapt to what they thought was happening.

“Aerobility is a registered charity founded in 1993 offering disabled people, without exception, the opportunity to fly an aeroplane.”

Changing perceptions, Aerobility helps young people to realise that the sky really is the limit and once they realise that they possess the skills and capabilities to fly a plane, suddenly their confidence increases and the possibilities are endless. The experienced instructors were fantastic with the students, who ranged from Year 6 to Year 12 and most of whom had never flown before. Working with Aerosparx, a team who perform displays all over the world, students were able to experience synchronised flights, solo flying and for the braver ones a display team favourite – the loop the loop manoeuvre!

Both planes were fitted with GoPro cameras linked to a big screen back at the base, enabling spectators and those waiting to fly to watch the students’ reactions during the flight. The few apprehensive expressions at the beginning were quickly transformed throughout the flight and on landing we were welcomed by beaming faces as they returned. One family even received a surprise photo on snapchat from a confident flier during her flight as all prior nerves were washed away with the excitement of the occasion.

Grey clouds cleared for what turned out to be a spectacular afternoon so a huge thank you to everyone who helped to make the day a success and massive congratulations to all of the students who took part and achieved their flying certificates!