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Amputee Will Realize Flying Dream 

Norwich Evening News 24


An amputee from Norwich will realize his dream this summer as he takes to the skies in South Africa to learn to become a qualified pilot.

Steve Hopwood, 49, lost his right arm and leg in a motorcycle crash in 1986, in which he collided head-on with a car on the A10 Ely Bypass.

But thanks to a scheme run by the charity Flying Scholarships for the Disabled he has secured a place on a six-week training course in Port Alfred, South Africa, to train for a private pilot''s licence.

The father-of-two who lives in St Margaret''s Drive, Sprowston, attended an assessment course at RAF Cranwell where he was one of just nine people out of 23 who applied who was deemed capable of learning to fly a plane - despite having two prosthetic limbs.

He said: “I was a bit apprehensive but obviously very excited - how many people get an invite to an RAF base. On the assessment, we had a hearing test and an eyesight test, and I was lucky because without the laser eye treatment I had in November last year, I wouldn''t have passed it.

“Then we had an aptitude test to assess our reactions and memory, and a medical with the doctor, checking whether we could get in and out of the plane ok. It was quite challenging, but if something is difficult then the urge to overcome it becomes even more.

“We also had an interview with the trustees. I decided I just had to go in there, be myself and give my own answers to the questions, and I got a phone call saying I had impressed the panel. After years and years of being told ''no you cant'' it feels fantastic to be given this opportunity, I can''t explain it.”

Mr Hopwood is being sponsored on the course by the Entrepreneur''s Fund, a charity who were made aware of the scheme by Polly Vacher, a pilot who flew in and out of 221 airfields in the UK picking up disabled people in a plane to promote flying scholarships for disabled people.

Although he will be using a normal plane on the course, an appendage made of a clamp and a swivel joint attached to his arm will help him control the aircraft. He has enough strength to control the rudder pedals using his prosthetic leg.

Mr Hopwood was inspired to do the flying course after it was recommended by his hero Simon Weston, the British soldier who became well known after suffering severe burns during the Falklands War.

As reported previously in the Evening News Mr Hopwood, a runner up in the Against All Odds category of last year''s Evening News Local Hero Awards, has told in the past how he helps to train medics in the army who need to deal with people who have lost limbs.

Mr Hopwood, who set up a light haulage company a year ago, added: “I think it will really change my life - I would almost put it on a par with having the accident as that changed my life in so many ways. 

“I have got this fantastic opportunity to go to somewhere I wouldn''t even have dreamed of going to and doing something I would never have thought I would get the chance to do.” 

“Life kicked me in the what''s-its but sometimes my disability opens doors for me and gives me the chance to do things that able bodied people might not be able to do. If you''re lying in the gutter, as long as you have the fight inside you there is life beyond any trauma.”

- Norwich Evening News 24

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