No time to get nervous on the first go… Claire Lomas’ second solo was way more nerve-wracking than her first.
Interview by Yayeri van Baarsen
15 February 2022
After my horse riding accident in 2007, I had a go at flying with Aerobility, but it was too soon. I hadn’t really accepted the things I couldn’t do anymore. Ten years later, when I had my second daughter, the doctor who delivered her flew a flexwing microlight. We started talking, he showed me flying pictures and said: “Let’s both get our licence.”
The outdoors has always appealed to me. In a flexwing microlight you’re exposed to the elements, which feels like an adventure. Also, having the wind blowing across your face when flying really gives you a sense of speed. It does get cold in winter though…
My dad, who flies a fixed-wing aircraft, suggested Sywell, so I contacted Wanafly Airsports. They replied immediately, were really helpful and have been amazing throughout my training. Simon James, my flying instructor, has become a friend and we’ve taken on challenges like the Great South Run together. Dave Lord, who owns the flying school, sorted out the adaptations to the aircraft.
I’m paralysed from the chest down, but my arms are strong, so I use them to fly the microlight. There’s a hand-throttle just above the bar and steering and braking is done by hand as well. With all hand-controls, sometimes I feel like I need a third hand! Luckily, I’m good at multitasking.
My training came at a good time. The pandemic put my job as a motivational speaker on hold, so learning to fly gave me something to get my teeth into. I had time to focus on my exams and never felt eager to rush my training. I found learning to fly challenging. Especially when coming into land. The first time you’re too high, the next time you’re too low… conditions always change, so it’s never the same approach. I love a challenge though!
No, although I knew I was getting close, I didn’t expect it. That was a good thing, as it meant I had no time to get nervous when my instructor got out. My second solo was actually more nerve-wracking, purely because I was expecting it. My first flight alone was such a buzz! I did wonder if I was ready, but you just have to trust your instructor on this. I stayed focused throughout the flight, making sure I did everything exactly as I’d been taught – it isn’t over until you’ve passed the finish line. Afterwards, I couldn’t wait to tell my husband and daughters, who had handmade cards waiting for me at home.
I’m currently on an NPPL restriction and still need some more solo hours and my navigation test. At the moment, just flying from Sywell is exciting enough. That said, I can’t wait to have a microlight at home and fly it from our farm strip! I’m certainly planning to use my flying for further fundraising. Selling patches on my flying suit, I’ve already raised £10,400 for charity. All my challenges together have raised £825,000 – it’s my goal to raise £1,000,000. I like using the opportunities I get to help others. Currently, I’m looking into giving talks at schools, showing kids that having a disability, or being a woman, doesn’t hold you back and that there are no limitations. Also, I’ve just finished my second book, The Bigger Picture, which will be out on International Women’s Day (8 March 2022). It includes quite a few chapters on flying!
Flying makes me feel able. After the accident, my whole life turned upside down. It felt like it was the end. However, many doors have opened since, and learning to fly has given me a big sense of freedom, satisfaction, and achievement. Having gone through a period of thinking ‘I’m not able’ and ‘I’ll never get a buzz out of anything again’, makes you appreciate things like flying even more.
Click here to watch Claire on the FLYER Livestream.
For more information about Claire’s flying challenges and her fund-raising, click here.
Motivational speaker Claire Lomas MBE uses her flying to raise funds for the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation
|When||18 April 2021|
|Aircraft||Pegasus Quik Flexwing Microlight|
|Hours at solo||Approx. 55|
|Hours now||Approx. 90|