WMU News

Three disabled British citizens set for flight training at WMU

July 11, 2003

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Three British citizens will begin flight training at Western Michigan University July 14 through a scholarship program named for a legendary World War II pilot who was a double amputee.

This marks the second year that WMU's College of Aviation has provided training to 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, 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.

This year's scholarship recipients are: Wendy Davis Arnfield, 41, a school employee from Lichfield, Staffordshire, England; Martin Gee, 40, a former pub manager from Beeston, Nottingham, England; and Sandip Uttam Toprani, 35, an accountant from Hemel Hempstead, Herfordshire, England.

The trio will meet the staff and go through orientation Monday, July 14. By Tuesday, July 15, they will be flying daily at WMU's College of Aviation facilities at W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek. For the first two weeks of their six-week stay, they will fly in the morning and attend ground school in the afternoon. During the final four weeks, beginning Monday, July 28, the students will fly in both the mornings and afternoons, Mondays through Fridays. After the six-week training program, Toprani will stay an additional two weeks to work on completing requirements for a pilot's license.

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. The queen 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.

In August, while the three latest recipients are studying at WMU, the college and city of Battle Creek will be visited by British aviator Polly Vacher, who is on a trip around the world to raise money for the flying scholarships for the disabled. Details of her three-day visit will be announced at a later date.

Last year through the same program, the college was the training site for three students from the United Kingdom. Later this month, the three will receive their wings in a special ceremony that will include Jordanian King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Feisal Bin Hussein as well as Britain's Prince Philip. WMU's Martin Grant, who coordinates the scholarship program for the college, will travel to England to represent the University at that event.

For additional information, contact Grant, faculty specialist in the College of Aviation, at (269) 964-4982.

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

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