A severely disabled RAF Regiment gunner has won a prestigious disabled flying scholarship. SAC Sean Allerton, 46, from Sherburn In Elmet, North Yorkshire, served in the RAF Regiment for nine years.
In 1993 he was involved in a bad motorbike accident in Cyprus which left him with a broken neck and severely disabled, forcing him to leave the Service.
In late 2010 a friend of Sean's told him about the Flying Scholarship for the Disabled. Up until then, any thoughts of flying had seemed fanciful because of cost, but the more he thought about the scholarships, the better it sounded.
In March this year Sean was shortlisted, and in April 2011 visited RAF Cranwell for a further round of interviews. After two days of deliberations Sean was one of nine finalists awarded a scholarship, out of an original pool of 400 applicants.
Sean was overjoyed:
"Along with fencing flying is a big passion of mine – with the Regiment you're feet are pretty firmly on the ground, but throughout my RAF career I got interested in flying and now I have the opportunity to take it up. With the scholarship there’s even the chance to become professionally qualified. It's strange, but only now that I've left the RAF am I getting flying!"
One of the trustees of Flying Scholarships for the Disabled is Sir Robert Wright, Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund.
The RAF Benevolent Fund contacted Sean prior to his medical discharge to see what assistance they could offer him. After examining his case, we purchased Sean a suitable house through our Housing Trust,which is then rented to Sean according to his available income, and adapted it to suit his needs.
"I'd always contributed to the RAF Benevolent Fund during my service," says Sean, "but to be honest I didn’t really know if they would help me.
"But the help I've received has been fantastic – without their help I would have had no choice about the location or type of housing I could access and would have had a far worse quality of life.
"As it is I now have the perfect place, with plenty of room to move around and do what I need to. Because of what the RAF Benevolent Fund has done for me I've been able to get on with my life, taking on this scholarship and an Open University history degree."
You can learn more about Sean's flying on his website.