Flying Blind to Australia (Hardback)
The Astounding Story of the Microlight Flight of a Blind Man and Sighted Pilots from the UK to Sydney
At 23.00 hours on a wintry Sunday evening in March 2007, a blind man called Miles Hilton Barber telephoned Brian Milton and asked: ‘Would you be my “sighted” pilot on a microlight flight to Australia, starting at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning?’
Miles, known as MHB, was the son of a wartime Rhodesian fighter pilot. He had been blind for twenty-five years, but made his living taking on improbable adventures, funded by giving inspirational talks to corporate sponsors. The original ‘sighted’ pilot, Storm Smith, a former major in the British Army who had served with the SAS, had helped convince the giant Standard Chartered Bank to fund this adventure. The flight was to be the backdrop to a series of talks MHB was to deliver to blind children across half of the world. Not only was MHB aiming to demonstrate to them that being blind should never be a barrier to achieving their goals, but he was also intending to raise at least a million US dollars at the same time.
When Smith dropped out at 22.00 hours the night before they were due to leave, MHB was shattered. His plans, and the hopes of many, lay in tatters. An hour later, he phoned Brian Milton.
A former BBC Radio journalist and later a TV presenter, Brian also did adventures, becoming the first man to fly a microlight around the world in 1998. When MHB rang him, Brian Milton was writing a book to clear his debts, and suggested Richard Meredith-Hardy, as an alternative. Meredith-Hardy, an Old Etonian, had made the first flight over Everest in a microlight, but could not meet MHB’s tight deadline.
So, at just forty-eight hours’ notice, with just fifteen minutes experience on a new type of microlight the bank had funded, Milton flew MHB across the Channel and cobbled together a route over the Alps via Italy and Greece to Cyprus, from where Meredith-Hardy joined the flight as the ‘sighted’ pilot on the remainder of the adventure to Australia.
In this insightful and moving account, both Milton and Meredith-Hardy reveal their dramatic parts in what was a truly thrilling and awe-inspiring flight.
Liz McConaghy, from a small town in County Down, spent a total of seventeen years flying with the RAF’s Chinook Fleet. Aged just 21, she was the youngest aircrew member to deploy to Iraq and was also the only female ‘crewman’ on the Chinook wing for four years. In her astounding career Liz McConaghy completed two deployments to Iraq followed by ten deployments to Helmand province in Afghanistan in support of the enduring Operation Herrick campaign. Liz’s inspiringly honest story reveals the highs and lows that she witnessed at war, and the cost that came with that both, physically and…By Liz McConaghy
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