Dunstable October 2015

Deaf Pilots met up at London Gliding Club, Dunstable over the weekend 10th-11th October 2015.

On Saturday the sky was grey with a lot of low cloud (it didn’t help that Dunstable is 500 ft above sea level) so the club’s Robin 400 Tugs were busy towing gliders between the cloud gaps.

First to launch was Rodney and John but the cloud thickened up and we had to release at 1,000ft when we entered cloud. ¬†ūüôĀ

Rodney & John

A little while later Joan and John had an another try and we couldn’t believe our luck when a¬†lee wave cloud gap appeared over the new Dunstable bypass. ¬†Nicola our tug pilot towed us to the upwind edge of the cloud and immediately after release we found some weak wave lift. ¬†Thanks Nicola! ¬†We spent about 25 minutes beating up and down the upwind edge of the cloud and eventually had to return to the club only to find that everyone had gone for lunch. ¬†They missed the best part of the day!


After lunch Dave had a quick check flight and then went off to fly a ASK23 solo.  Rodney had his second flight and this time we succeeded in getting a bit higher.  Rodney practiced flying in the low tow position and recovering out from the lateral position.

Soon it was getting dark and time to put the gliders away in the hangar then we off we went for a pub dinner.

Sunday was much better with less cloud but visibility was still poor.

First to fly was Tim and John in the SF25C motor-glider whilst Tim tried some specially modified headsets to see if he could listen to the radio with his hearing aids.


David flew the K23 and Joan and Rodney flew the ASK 21s again. ¬†We even managed to persuade Tim’s Dad to have a flight in a glider.

Many thanks to all that came and those at London Gliding Club that made us welcome.

Deaf pilots are hoping to meet up at another museum over the winter and visit a new flying club early in 2016.

Flying the Extra 200

Deaf pilot Robert and his Instructor Adrian share their thoughts from flying an Extra 200…

As a deaf pilot I learned to fly in a side by side seating configuration (a Cessna 150). After the usual run of Robins and Pipers I decided to take the plunge 20 years ago and get a Yak 52. Tuition was relatively easy because the instructor’s position was in the back of the aircraft and a mirror could be positioned to allow me to see his face thereby readily allowing signals and gestures as well as a little bit of lip reading to assist me to understand what are now fairly unintelligible intercom systems. That was some 15 or 20 years ago. Recently I decided that the Yak had to go and decided to go for an Extra 200.

Whilst Extra 300’s are fairly common place there are only 4 or 5 Extra 200’s in the country ‚Äď although they are very similar. My attempt to obtain tuition at one flying club ran onto some serious rocks as soon as they realised that I was deaf. No amount of reassurance could calm them and my PA received no less than 3 panic stricken calls from the club’s secretary finishing with me agreeing to the (obvious) admonition that the instructor would be in ultimate control of the aircraft at all times. I then flew with the club on 2 occasions but was unable to persuade them that with a little common sense and practicality the issue could be resolved.

Then I had a lucky break. I discovered that Adrian Willis of the British Aerobatic Academy had an Extra 200 no more than an hour’s drive or so away at Bourn airfield. Adrian and I sat down together and worked out the basic means of communication. Obviously, when my flying got a bit ropey (as it frequently does) he would just take control. Otherwise it was a question of practice. The whole thing has naturally taken longer without me being able to hear real time commentary on my flying. (Adrian will write and hold up notes, but this takes him a few seconds). Probably more fundamentally it just takes me time to transition between aircraft types anyway. That said, the process has been enormously valuable and I am now getting the hang at last of my new aircraft.

Robert next to his Extra 200

I sometimes think that my deafness heightens my enjoyment of flying. My job involves a lot of travel and often in noisy airport environments I end up being led about by colleagues who can hear. The feeling of independence and self reliance that flying brings is a major relief and gives me a new perspective. Thanks very much to Adrian for his patience in teaching me. I’m not there yet, but as with most flying it’s more about the journey than the destination!

Adrian (Robert’s Instructor) adds…

When Robert asked me to teach him how to fly the Extra I was naturally keen to help but did wonder if I could contribute very much. Teaching is a communication exercise and teaching flying is a more delicate communication balance than other subjects. On the one hand it is important to explain what is going wrong while being careful not to overload the pilot and to try and generally facilitate good performance . I feel a good teacher is somebody who can get the balance right so that the student learns as quickly as possible, does not break the aircraft and also enjoys the experience retaining enthusiasm for more training. In normal circumstances this is challenging as the balance is different for each student but with a deaf student I wondered if I was going to be able to contribute anything beyond being a safety pilot.

Robert explained that he had done it before and although probably a more lengthy process than normal, should be achievable. We agreed how to hand over and take over control of the aircraft, briefed rather more than usual and set off with open eyes. I learned a lot from the early sorties. When Robert was getting something wrong, I would demonstrate and Robert would see my point, and then tell me the point so that I could put my thumb up to confirm he had identified the correct issue. On only one occasion we had to land to brief an issue. Sometimes we would circle while I wrote points on paper for Robert to read, on some occasions I would perhaps add a control input unnecessarily because I was uncertain if I had explained something adequately. The training has taken a little longer than usual but this is partly due to Robert striving for perfection and only partly due to deafness.

Robert asked me to help him bring his aircraft back from the manufacturers in Germany. I was able to boost Roberts confidence by monitoring the radio but having ferried many Sukhois back and forth across Europe with poor radios I was only too aware that this was not really very important.

In summary I have learned a lot from this experience and see no reason at all why people should imagine being deaf is a handicap to VFR flying.

Robert with Instructor Adrian

Robert (R) with instructor Adrian (L)

Sutton Bank October 2014

Deaf Pilots visited Yorkshire Gliding Club at Sutton Bank between the 24th-26th October.

I arrived on Friday afternoon with the DG-500 to find Joan and David already flying with the CFI.  One pilot had just landed having reached 11,000 ft in wave!

This year was a smaller group than usual but we all had a great time soaring the ridge and wave.


The morning started with clear skies and 25 knots south westerly wind and we arrived at the club for the morning briefing excited by the prospect of possible wave flying.

Dave took the first flight with the CFI in the¬†DG-1000¬†and found wave meanwhile the rest of us rigged the DG-500. ¬†By the time Paul and I took a launch the sky has turned overcast and the wave had disappeared. ¬†ūüôĀ

After landing the wind direction changed and strength increased so the tugs had to be put back into the hangar.  The club changed runways and launched the gliders by winch straight into the ridge lift.

Rodney, Joan, Dave and I all enjoyed soaring flights on the ridge and in weak wave in the afternoon.


The wind was stronger, 30 knots South Westerly and the tugs were left in the hangar again.  Joan and I took the first flight and started soaring the ridge and eventually found some wave south the Moors, in which we managed to climb to 4,000 ft.  The upper cloud prevented us from climbing any higher so we keep weaving between the cloud gaps.  I wish I had taken my GoPro but what a flight!

Rodney and I took another flight after lunch but were unable to find wave so stayed local on the ridge, staying airborne for nearly 2 hours.

What another great weekend!

Many thanks to Yorkshire Gliding Club for hosting us again this year.

See video below for some flying clips.

Tony’s Flight at Blackbushe

Deaf pilot Joan interviewed Tony about his flying experience with Aerobility at Blackbushe aerodrome.

How did you find out about Aerobility?

I saw them at a roadshow in Wolverhampton last year. Later in 2013 I went for a flight at Blackbushe and also tried the flight simulator.

In June 2014 I made my second visit to Aerobility at Blackbushe. Unfortunately my communicator Gemma was ill. I decided to go ahead with the visit anyway.

I flew in a light aircraft. There were 3 of us me, the pilot and another man called Steve.

We flew for about half and hour. The weather was good : light wind and blue sky. I had lovely views of London area. We were not allowed to fly near Heathrow airport because we might crash into a big jet plane!

I wasn’t able to control the plane myself because my arm is too weak. Last year I was able to control a plane in the flight simulator.
The best bit was the take off. I was excited. It’s different in a small plane. We went fast and the plane wobbled as we gained height.

I hope to go fly again next year.

Dunstable May 2014

Deaf Pilots visited London Gliding Club at Dunstable Airfield during they May Bank Holiday weekend.

Here is what we got up to……


We woke to drizzle and with little chance of flying, so we spent the morning briefing deaf pilots on the conversion process from UK (BGA) to European (EASA) Sailplane Pilot Licensing.

Joan arrived and after lunch the weather brightened up, so we got a K21 out of the hangar to fly.  John, Rodney, Joan, Dave and Pete all flew and we managed 5 flights before a late afternoon heavy shower.  Unfortunately some of us got wet whilst putting the kit away!  Time for a quick beer, then out for an evening meal.


Sunday turned out to be a classic gliding day.  Blue skies dotted with Cumulus clouds.

John gave Rodney a couple of winch launch check flights before before handing him over to Pete for his Bronze Exam.

Rodney & John

Rodney & John

We took turns to fly while the rest chatted about flying.

Andrew and Mark probably talking about flying......

Andrew and Mark probably talking about flying……

John and Joan managed 40 minutes and had to resort to doing loops and chandelles to lose height.  Andrew and Yoav had the longest flight over an hour in the blue K13.

Andrew & Yoav waiting for an aerotow

Andrew & Yoav waiting for an aerotow

This weekend we were joined by a new member, Mark who is learning to fly Microlights at Kemble.  John took Mark for his first flight in a glider, and Mark remarked how smooth the glider was.

Mark & John preparing for flight

Mark & John preparing for flight

The highlight of the day was the news that Rodney passed him Bronze exam.  Well done Rodney!



Many thanks to everyone at London Gliding Club for hosting us and for Pete for taking time out of his weekend.