Lockheed Martin is proud to sponsor a scholarship for the Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP) each year.
In 2021, that scholarship went to Tim Mabon, from (Oswestry, UK). Tim shares his experience with the FSDP program and the benefits he gained from it.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Tim. I was 35 years old when I was hit from behind by an articulated lorry whilst cycling on my road bike. It was July the 4th 2016, what I call now my Non-Independence Day.
I spent 2 ½ weeks in a coma with life threatening injuries, followed by 5 months in hospital recovering and rehabilitating. The accident has left me with a spinal cord injury, the reality of which is being paralysed from my chest down to my toes. I will never stand or walk again.
I cannot describe through even analogies what this feels like, for an adventurous person that likes nothing more than speed and excitement through sports and recreation to now be confined to the four wheels of a wheelchair. I will say it is very……difficult.
I was also on the quality and assurance management track in a major multi-national engineering and manufacturing business, a role that wouldn’t be able to support a full-time wheelchair user with an ambition to go-all-in on anything I get involved in, regularly staying all day and night to get the job done.
To say the accident and injuries turned my life upside down would be an understatement.
I’m sure, as a business that has supported a number of scholarships over the years, you understand what it feels like to support a scholar.
On the other side, as a scholar, I can only use this channel to thank you and take you through the scholarships using the eyes of a scholar. Here is my story;
After applying for the scholarship, you were informed you’d been selected as a finalist, and invited into an interview process. Can you describe what that was like?
The weeks leading up to the assessment days were most definitely a period of much apprehension, not only for me, for others I have spoken to also. [In-person interviews were replaced with virtual meetings, so] although the worry of face-to-face interviewing had been reduced thanks to the use of the internet, I found it hard to know who might be watching online at various points, which made me nervous.
The interviews, however, were not daunting at all. Each and every person involved in my interviews made me feel comfortable, listened to me and used plain understandable language.
When it came to the second element of the assessments, the ‘medical and aircraft assessments’ held at Kemble, it was great to finally be able to meet people outside, both the other scholars and those ‘behind the scenes’! It was fantastic to mingle with the FSDP team, the trustees, the mentors and representatives of the flight-schools.
Can you tell us about your experience with your flight instruction? What was it like experiencing your first flight?
I have to start with my over-flowing feelings towards the team at Shadow Aviation, the flying training school I attended – they are so very kind and accommodating. I felt as though both of my instructors, Fiona and Raymond, had accepted me into their families. I don’t think I needed to ask for help once as so many elements of the course I thought I would struggle with had already been catered for or resolved. I do realise they have been conducting training for disabled people for many years, they still have so much compassion in the way they operate.
When I got up into the air the first time, wow, what a feeling of release and exhilaration. I have obviously flown many times in airliners, so flying wasn’t a new experience. However, to be in a small aircraft, in which you could feel every little change in the air conditions, it was just incredible. To then take the controls, there is a feeling of trust, a bond that must be formed between an instructor and student – I was supremely lucky that I felt his almost immediately with Raymond.
On top of this, my instructors managed to teach me in a way that I was constantly pushing further and further with my training. Finally, Raymond saw confidence in me to make a solo flight…although…due to medical restrictions this was actually a ‘Ghosted’ solo flight, for me it was an incredible achievement.
I will always be enormously grateful for the sponsorship – thank you Lockheed Martin!
How has this opportunity impacted you?
The most fundamental impact of the scholarship has been to remind me that I am still capable of taking on a complex subject and learn about it, being tested in it and passing. It also showed to me that I do not need to depend on others, namely my wife, to exist on a daily basis. I managed to pack my ‘life’ up for a period of time, and most importantly, self-manage away from the ease and restriction-less home setting. This no mean feat when needing to transport the necessary equipment for the ongoing daily treatment of my body. I also managed to fill my car with fuel for the first time in years!
You forget that even a menial task just as filling the car with fuel becomes a hugely daunting and tiring activity when needing to constantly transfer a heavy wheelchair into and out of a car.
It also showed to me the value of friendship – I consider Fiona and Raymond to be friends, not just my instructors. The final impacts the experience have achieved are to; remind me the feeling of absolute exhilaration that can be had by being 4,500 feet above ground level, above the clouds and discovering how beautiful everything still is, disability or injury regardless. When in an aircraft, you are essentially equal to others - a pilot is a pilot. I have also regained some of the confidence that I had lost due to the injury and devastating change to my life. After this experience I want to carry on and get my private pilot’s license!