• Boeing, Air League help a hero to take flight

    LONDON,  October 29, 2013 - Boeing is celebrating the achievements of Karl Hinett, a wounded former soldier of the Staffordshire Infantry Regiment in the British Army, as he nears completion of a Boeing-sponsored flying scholarship in partnership with the Air League and Aerobility.

    Karl, 26, was injured while serving his country in Basra, Iraq in 2005.  Since completing rehabilitation he has taken up the opportunity to train to become a fully qualified pilot through Aerobility, a charity founded in 1993 offering disabled people the opportunity to fly an airplane.  The Air League, which aims to enhance national understanding of the importance of aviation in the UK, and Help for Heroes have also played a crucial role in delivering the training programme for Karl alongside support from Boeing in the UK.

    “When I found out I’d been given the chance to learn how to fly, it felt like I’d won the lottery,” said Karl.  “After Iraq, I felt like I was at a crossroads in life.  Either you let it take over or you decide to make the most of what you’ve got, and I chose the latter.  Ever since I was fully rehabilitated I’ve been pushing myself to overcome new challenges, whether that’s completing 100 marathons in 24 months, or climbing Mount Everest.  It’s difficult but very rewarding and after I gain my pilot’s licence, I plan to continue training to become a commercial pilot in the future.”

    Karl’s training at Blackbushe Airport in Surrey started at the beginning of 2013, and after extensive training, he is half-way through the process of qualification and recently flew solo for the first time.  By incredible coincidence his first solo flight on September 19, 2013 was eight years to the day, after he was critically wounded in his Warrior armoured vehicle.  In a further coincidence, the aircraft he flew is also called a Warrior. He is one of six former members of the Armed Forces who are participating in the Aerobility flying scholarships programme supported by Boeing and the Air League.

    “Boeing is proud to support Karl with Aerobility and the Air League.   These flying scholarships to give former service men and women the chance to develop new skills and gain the confidence to pursue new careers after the military,” said Sir Roger Bone, president of Boeing UK. “Boeing is committed to inspiring people at all life stages to take an interest in aviation and flying.”

    Karl joined the Staffordshire Infantry Regiment at 17 and within 18 months was posted to Basra, Iraq, working alongside Special Forces.  While working as a gunner in an armoured car, he was seriously injured in a riot and suffered third degree burns on 40% of his body.  After returning to the UK he spent five years being treated in hospitals in Birmingham, where he had 16 operations and spent 100 hours on the operating theatre to treat his face, arms, stomach and legs.  Since completing rehabilitation Karl has fundraised tirelessly for the Queen Elizabeth and Selley Oak Hospitals in Birmingham by completing 100 marathons in 27 countries throughout 2011-12.  He also took part in the Walking with the Wounded climb to attempt the summit of Mount Everest in 2012, alongside other wounded soldiers.

    “Karl is an incredibly inspiring individual, having overcome some daunting challenges to learn how to pilot an aeroplane” said Mike Miller-Smith, CEO of Aerobility. “It is a surprise to many people - disabled and able bodied - that flying is very much a possibility for people with a range of disabilities. Indeed, disabled flying can provide a level of challenge and exhilaration that may be difficult to find anywhere else.”

    The Aerobility programme is run largely by disabled aviators based at Blackbushe Airport, and was created to open up the opportunity to qualify as a pilot to those with disabilities. The Air League and Boeing teamed up with Aerobility to offer scholarships to wounded servicemen and women, which fund approximately 50 hours of training per student, including navigation, communication, weather assessment as well as flight simulation and eventually solo flight.

    Andrew Brookes, Director of The Air League, commented: “The Air League’s role is to promote ‘air-mindedness’ in people and to highlight how vital aviation and aerospace are to the economic well being of the UK.  Facilitating former soldiers such as Karl in their goals to qualify as commercial pilots is pivotal to the success of the UK aviation industry.”

    Boeing is a longstanding partner of the Air League as part of its commitment to make a positive contribution in the communities in which the company operates.  Boeing UK funds a number of flying scholarships for young people, veterans and disabled people. One of the Air League’s best-known achievements is the foundation of the Air Cadets, and its patron is HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Formed in 1909, the Air League’s mission is to enhance national understanding of the importance of aviation and aerospace in the UK and to excite and engage young people’s interest in these areas.

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    Boeing engages with and impacts the world in many different ways - through its products and services, its business practices and its community engagement. With more than 1,300 employees across the UK, from Glasgow to Gosport, Boeing partners with a wide range of organizations to invest in communities and help address social challenges.  More information is available at www.boeing.co.uk/community.

    This year, Boeing celebrates 75 years of successful partnership with the UK.  Boeing spends on average $1 billion a year with British industry in support of thousands of hi-tech jobs across the country. More information is available at www.boeing.co.uk/75.