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Alnwick woman Kat Janes sets off on a 2000-mile microlite adventure despite her disability; Kat, from Alnwick, is one of seven disabled people navigating the British coastline to raise awareness of Flying for Freedom.

Byline: Ian Robson

Brave Kat Janes is all set to aim high for the next two weeks despite her disability.

The battle manager from RAF Boulmer is one of seven disabled people who are navigating the British coastline in a fleet of microlight aircraft.

They aim to raise awareness of Flying for Freedom, an organisation partnered with Help for Heroes, ahead of an open-cockpit trip to Antarctica next year.

The team is led by double amputee Capt Luke Sinnott who lost his legs looking for improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan.

Kat, who walks with the aid of two sticks after an infection hit her nervous system while on duty in Cyprus, said flying gave her a freedom she does not have on land.

Also taking part is Nathan Forster, formerly of the Parachute Regiment, who comes from Gateshead.

His left leg was shattered in a blast in Afghanistan in 2011.

Kat, 39, who lives in Alnwick, has spent time at Headley Court, the armed forces rehabilitation unit, where she heard about the adventure.

She said: "If you don't try these things you never know what you can do. I had never flown a microlight before but when I was airborne, open to the elements, it's unbelievable, the freedom you have up there is incredible.

"I am an aerospace battle manager in the RAF. I was always an active person, enjoyed many sports, and was always up for a challenge.

"The team is fantastic. It's made of different people from all walks of life attempting an amazing goal to get the microlights to Antarctica.

"This trip is a training exercise for that and it will be quite hard in its own right.

"I need two crutches to walk and if I fall down I would not be able to get back up again without help but flying to me is freedom.

"I had caught an infection when I served in Cyprus and it damaged the nerves in my legs."

Team leader Capt Sinnott qualified as a microlight pilot in 2014, training in Flying for Freedom's modified flex-wing microlights.

He planned the trip, due to set off from Gloucestershire on Saturday and which will take in the North East next weekend, to highlight the importance of post-injury activities as part of a long-term recovery programme.

He said: "I lost my legs searching for IEDs in Afghanistan. Before the explosion I had been very active, playing rugby and sailing, so I needed to find something else to focus on.

"I had always wanted to learn to fly and Flying for Freedom gave me that opportunity.

"When I fly I am free from my disability and on equal terms with able bodied pilots."

The two-week 2,000-mile route will be a true test of endurance due to the nature of the terrain the microlights will be flying over.

Each pilot has overcome a life changing disability, caused by injury or sickness, to join the pilot programme funded by sponsorship and public donations.

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Publication:The Chronicle (Newscastle upon Tyne, England)
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Jun 8, 2015
Words:498
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