British scholarship aviators earn wings
Aug. 23, 2002
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Three British citizens who overcame physical disabilities to learn to fly this summer completed their training with a special wings ceremony Aug. 22. The ceremony was held in the Aviation Education Center at Western Michigan University's College of Aviation in Battle Creek.
Officials from Battle Creek and WMU took part in the ceremony, which marked the students' successful completion of a scholarship program named for a legendary World War II pilot who was a double amputee. Battle Creek Mayor Brian Kirkham pinned wings on each of the students, while James Hettinger, president and chief executive officer of Battle Creek Unlimited, presented each with a plaque. Aviation Dean Gregory Lyman presided and offered remarks.
The three are recipients of the Royal International Air Tattoo Flying School Scholarships for the Disabled and had been at WMU since July 15. The prestigious scholarships were established in 1983 in memory of Sir Douglas Bader, 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. More than 170 flight students have been trained through the program, which is intended to afford those with disabilities a chance to experience a sense of freedom and release from their physical restraints.
The scholarship recipients were Delcan Breen, 34, of High Peak, Derbyshire, England; Ian Rutland, 41, of Pity Me, Durham, England; and Peter Kingdon, 59, of Colchester, Essex, England.
The three flew almost daily at the College of Aviation facilities at W.K. Kellogg Airport. For the first two weeks of their six-week stay, they also spent half of each day attending ground school at the college.
Official patron of the scholarship 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. 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.
Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org