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Attitude Determines Altitude

The Vision

To create the opportunity for people with lower limb disabilities to experience the thrill of flying. We aim for all our students to achieve a Private Pilots License through progressive and professional instruction.

How it evolved

Vision Air, is a concept unique in Australia and, to our knowledge, there is only one other similar program, which is being offered in the United Kingdom.

The program was originally conceived in 1992 by Ian MacDonald, Managing Director of Mirage Air, who has dedicated his modified Piper Cherokee 140 on a cost recovery basis.

The program was then extended when Suzi Duncan, a flying instructor with Royal Victorian Aero Club, joined the program, naming it Vision Air. The motto of Vision Air is "Attidtude Determines Altitude", which in effect means that people with disabilities can, with the right attitude, be competent and professional pilots.

The aircraft used for this program is fitted with a Blackwood Pole, (hypertext link to Blackwood Pole site) which attaches to the instructor's left rudder pedal, enabling rudder control and ground steering by hand.

Without the generous financial support of Ansett Airlines, Air BP, Australian Aviation Underwriters Pool amd Westfield Holdings, the Vision Air program would not have developed to the point where the three existing students would be able to be part of the program.

The low wing configuration of the modified Cherokee enables easy access to the cockpit for those with lower limb disabilities.

Many other aircraft are capable of being modified, and with the assistance and support of International Wheelchair Aviators (USA), we hope to be able to implement these for the future. This would fulfill requirements for those wishing to obtain a commercial licence.

The driving force behind the program has come from Suzi Duncan, who despite polio-related disabilities, has achieved Private Pilot License (PPL), Commercial Pilot License (CPL), night rating and Instructor rating. Such was the respect she earnt throughout her training that Suzi was offered a position as an Instructor with the Royal Victorian Aero Club at the conclusion of her instructor rating. Suzi is currently undergoing further training for an instrument rating and has a proven committment to the program, acquiring the necessary skills to teach all technical aspects of aircraft control, using only hand controls.

The program commenced in November 1995 with Philip Smallman being awarded the first scholarship. Philip made his first solo in March 1996 and, at this time, is close to achieving the General Flying Progress Test. Observing the progress of Philip's training has created much interest from all at the Royal Victorian Aero Club, and opened many eyes to the reality of flight by the disabled. A medical examination preceded the issuing of a Student Pilot License and there have been no complications arising from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in endorsing Philip as a Student Pilot. The endorsement is subject to the type of hand controls currently utilised and the satisfaction of the Chief Flying Instructor as to Philips ability to handle the aircraft safely in the air and on the ground.

In addition to Phillip, Anthony Bonaccurso and Steve Byrne have joined the program and are currently in training. Anthony is a well recognised para-olympian and is also in training for the Winter Olympics in Japan. Stephen lives in Canberra, where he runs his own picture framing business. When possible he travels to Melbourne to continue his training which is showing great promise.

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