High Flight helps terminally ill
and disadvantaged youngsters,
as Stratton Richey explains.
Reach for the sky
Three years ago a special organisation devoted
to children who are terminally ill or who
come from a disadvantaged background
was set up – High Flight – which has already
achieved considerable success.
As a British Airways Boeing 747 captain,
I know the thrill of flying, but I and others
wanted to give this experience to these
unfortunate youngsters, and the idea of
High Flight was born.
As a Freemason I was well aware of
the immense benefits that charitable
organisations – both Masonic and non-
Masonic – can give, but actually starting
up such a body was a new experience.
Since High Flight was formed more
than a thousand youngsters have taken
to the air in gliders and, in addition, some
900 children in need of special care due to
mental and sexual abuse have been taken
to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.
High Flight has also sponsored eight
flying scholarships for the disabled and has
also come together with the MS Society to
enable sufferers of multiple sclerosis to take
to the air.
One such beneficiary was Julie who, at the
age of 22, was an active sportswoman, a good
musician and had a full career ahead of her.
A year later she felt the first pains in her joints,
and two years later arthritis was diagnosed.
At 28 she had her second hip replacement
and was in a wheelchair at 30. But she
had always wanted to fly, and following
a tough selection process, she went to
Atlanta, Georgia, for flying training.
She had to go alone, as part of the deal
was to be unaccompanied. She triumphed
In 2000 she attended the Royal
Aeronautical Society annual banquet
to tell 750 guests her own story, travelling
from Norwich to London without a
wheelchair – something the doctors
had not thought possible.
Then there is the story of Robin
Gibbons, a First Officer with Virgin
Atlantic, piloting a 370-tonne Boeing
747-2000 But in January 2001 he ran off
the road in his car on black ice, and broke
his back at thoracic vertebrae three/four.
His lesion was certified complete and he
was now permanently paralysed from the
middle of his chest down.
But his father was an inspiration, telling
Robin to look on it as another phase of his
life. So he went through a rehabilitation
process, and last year his thoughts again
turned to flying.
So he went to a special organisation,
Aviation for Paraplegics and Tetraplegics
(APT), booked a flight on his birthday,
and has never looked back. It was a moving
experience – it was his first solo flight for
more than 13 years.
Robin swam for the Aspire National
Training Centre’s annual ‘Channel’ swim,
the equivalent of crossing the English
Channel, covering the 22 miles in 40
hours 25 minutes, with only his arms
to propel himself through the water.
High Flight raises funds to help
individuals like Robin and organisations
such as APT to fund flying. But High
Flight is a small charity and relies totally
on donations. We seek monthly donations
of between £10 and £20. By using the
Gift Aid Scheme (I will send the forms or
they can be downloaded from the website)
High Flight will be able to claim back some
of the tax. It costs £25 for a glider flight, so
a donation of £10 a month will sponsor six
youngsters after tax relief has been claimed.
Beacon, a new charitable initiative which
raises the profile of philanthropy in the
UK, in 2003, its inaugural year, gave
Stratton Richey a highly commended
award for his efforts with High Flight.
The Beacon Prize is awarded to
individuals who are an inspiration to
others in the way that they give – be
it time, money or expertise.
Beacon chief executive Emily Stonor
commented: “In an almost impossibly
difficult process, with many hundreds
of outstanding nominations, Stratton
Richey’s achievements stood out
Stratton Richey, a London Metropolitan Grand Steward, is chairman of High Flight
For more information or to send donations contact:
High Flight, P.O. Box 392
Ashford, Kent TN27 9YQ
Tel: 01233 756366 Fax: 01233 756170
Web site: www.highflight.info
Web site created by Mark Griffin