WMU News

Three disabled British citizens take to the skies

July 13, 2004

BATTLE CREEK, Mich.--Three British citizens took to the air this week as the latest recipients of a special scholarship program offered at Western Michigan University and named for a legendary World War II pilot who was a double amputee.

This marks the third 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: Alistair "Ali" Ferguson, 20, a computer analyst for the British Ministry of Defense, who lives in Buckinghamshire, England; Scott Matthews, 19, a tele-sales executive with the Norwich Union Building Society, who lives in Glasgow, Scotland; and Derek Taylor, 51, a retired publicity and tourism officer for Abercony Borough, who lives in North Wales.

The trio arrived July 10, met the staff and went through orientation July 12 and on July 13, they began flying daily at the 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, the students will fly in both the mornings and afternoons, Mondays through Fridays. An Aug. 20 wings ceremony is scheduled to celebrate the completion of their work at WMU.

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.

For additional information, contact WMU's Martin Grant at (269) 964-4982. Grant is a faculty specialist in aviation who coordinates the scholarship program for the college.

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

WMU News
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