WMU News

British finance flight training for handicapped

April 3, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- A British scholarship program, named for a legendary World War II pilot who was a double amputee, will bring three students to Western Michigan University's College of Aviation this summer for a six-week training regimen.

Two WMU officials will be in England this month to help select three recipients of the Royal International Air Tattoo Flying School Scholarships for the Disabled. The prestigious scholarships were established in 1983 in memory of Sir Douglas Bader (BAH-der), famed Royal Air Force flying ace and squadron commander who downed 23 enemy planes during the war, undeterred by the loss of both legs in a crash that occurred early in his flying career.

The scholarships are intended to afford recipients a chance to experience a sense of freedom and release from their physical restraints. More than 170 flight students have been trained through the program.

Official patron of the program is Queen Noor of Jordan, whose late husband, King Hussein, was instrumental in funding the scholarships from their inception and whose family continues to provide support today. She has often visited past recipients while their training was under way. Early recipients of the scholarships trained at RAF locations in England, but weather considerations caused the training sites to be moved to Big Bear City, Calif.; Port Alfred, South Africa; and now, WMU's aviation facilities in Battle Creek, Mich.

WMU was recommended as a scholarship training site by Great Britain's Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators, which in December announced it would send the 2002 recipient of its prestigious J.N. Somers Scholarship to WMU for training. Support also came from Battle Creek Unlimited, the community's economic development agency, and from Paul Bowen, executive director of the Royal International Air Tattoo, whose son is currently studying at WMU.

WMU's Ian Davidson and Martin Grant, both officials in the College of Aviation's international flight program, will be in Britain for the April 9 meeting of the scholarships' final selection board at the RAF's facilities in Cranwell. Scholarship candidates will undergo flying aptitude tests, medical exams and interviews before the board chooses three recipients, who will travel to WMU in July for training. That training will include ground school and up to 40 hours of dual and solo flying.

Bader was a squadron commander who made his leadership debut during the Battle of Britain. Flying Spitfires and Hurricanes, he downed 23 enemy planes before crashing in France in 1941 and being taken prisoner. After the war, he served in RAF leadership positions, was a managing director of Shell Aircraft and a member of the Civil Aviation Authority Board. From 1976 until his death in 1982, he was president of the Royal International Air Tattoo, an organization dedicated to alleviating hardships faced by the families of airmen lost or wounded in World War II.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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