Linda takes to the skies

Leuchie guest, Linda, tells her amazing story of a microlight flight she never dreamed she'd have.

Right up until the moment I was sitting in the aircraft, I couldn’t understand how on earth it was going to be possible for me to fly in a microlight.

I was diagnosed with MS in 1996, and having gradually lost the use of my arms and legs, have been a full-time wheelchair user since 2006. If you can’t move unaided, how could you get into a tiny microlight and take to the skies?

For the past five years I’ve been coming to Leuchie House for short breaks. The focus at Leuchie is on helping each guest to experience whatever will make their break truly special for them, often supporting people to do things they never thought possible.

When I heard that they were talking to East Lothian Microlights about taking guests on flights around the local area, it reminded me of my Dad who used to love microlighting. I thought it sounded like an exciting thing to offer, but not something I could do.

Next time I was at Leuchie I heard that one of the guests, Andrew, was booked to go a few days later. I mentioned it sounded great, and before I knew it I’d been signed up!

I didn’t feel nervous about the flight itself. My apprehension was still all about the logistics: how I’d get into the microlight, and what would happen if my legs went into spasm as they often do.  I was so unconvinced, I didn’t even tell my husband or family beforehand in case it didn’t all go to plan.

When the day arrived, the team helped me into my flight suit, then strapped our wheelchairs into the Leuchie minibus. Then we set off to the microlight centre, where the owners, Gordon and Jill were waiting to greet us.

Andrew was going first which meant I could watch everything before having to do it myself. As I saw him take off, I finally realised it really was going to happen.

Then it was my turn. Using a mobile hoist, the Leuchie team transferred me from my wheelchair into the microlight. My legs and feet were positioned, my harness was fitted and my helmet put on. In such a tiny aircraft, once the pilot sits down in front of you, you’re well and truly in place and feel reassuringly secure!

It was a beautiful clear day with no wind as we taxied off along the runway, building up speed. After a smooth take off, we were up in the air, flying above East Lothian. It had been over ten years since I’d been in an aeroplane but it was nothing like this. With no roof and the air all around you, this felt like real flying.

Through my headset, Gordon the pilot gave me a guided tour as we flew around Dunbar, over Tantallon Castle, the Bass Rock and Berwick Law. Being able to see the wild ponies who live on the Law was amazing. Then we passed over Leuchie House where a crowd of guests and staff were waiting in the grounds to wave to us.

I remember thinking to myself “Here I am, unable to move a muscle, and now I’m flying through the sky just like any able-bodied person.”

A thirty minute flight, it was over far too quickly. As we landed back at the microlight centre, I felt quite dazed by the whole experience. When one of the Leuchie team asked me how I’d found it, I burst into tears. I couldn’t believe I’d managed to do it after all.

Since the flight I’ve watched the video filmed from the wing of the microlight with friends, family and other Leuchie guests. I still can’t quite believe it was me. It was such an amazing, liberating experience and, without Leuchie House, it wouldn’t have been possible.

My husband tells me he’s very proud of me, and other Leuchie guests have told me I‘ve inspired them to do it too. Now I can’t wait to do it again, knowing this time that it really is possible.