We came away from the Award Ceremony on 4 February with an almost embarrassing number of trophies - 6 of the available10! These included the Duke of Edinburgh Award for first place in the Full Challenge, the Half Trophy for first in the Half Challenge, the Gold Medal for longest distance covered and the Pooleys Sword for the best logbook, (the latter entirely Patrick's work!). Patrick has also made a rather moving video about it which is attached.
On Sunday 8 August we had completed the last of our attempts on the Dawn to Dusk Challenge, finishing our 'Half Million Islands' flight without missing a single one of the 119 islands stretching from the Scillies in the south west, to the far north of the Shetlands, and taking in the Farne islands on the East Coast and St Kilda in the far west of the Hebrides, well on the way to Iceland! Starting at 5.20 am, 17 mins before sunrise at Lee on Solent, Patrick was in the plane 15 hours solidly before touching down at Lerwick at 8.15 in the evening, an amazing feat of endurance for a less than able bodied person. At least I was able to get out and walk around during our 3 refuelling stops at Caernarfon, Oban and Stornoway.
Most of the trip was in reasonable weather, but there were anxious times crossing the Pennines between Isle of Man and the Farne Islands, when the scenery and the clouds got to be too close together for comfort. The trip involved flying 1707 nautical miles or 2000 ordinary miles, with 1800 of them over the ocean, often far from land! This is a bit longer the length of the Atlantic crossing between Newfoundland and Ireland! For a small plane this is near to the limit of what is possible in a day, and few pilots relish flying that far over water in a single engined plane. Also travelling west to St Kilda took us right into an advancing low & frontal system, with high winds, rain, poor visibility and cloud base down to 700ft. But overall it was an amazing trip with memorable scenery. I am overwhelmed by and very proud of the courage and sheer dogged determination to keep going, that Patrick showed.
We also completed our Irish Lighthouses trip in June and I did the Wellington's Battle Sites trip in July. Details of all these trips have been published in aviation journals.
The Dawn to Dusk Challenge is an annual aviation competition that has been running nearly 50 years. Until he retired last year the Duke of Edinburgh was the chief judge. To compete you need to dream up an exciting (possibly slightly mad!) plan which involves you flying a small plane as much as possible between dawn and dusk on any one single day during the summer. There is also a ‘Half Challenge’ which has to be completed before or after the middle of the day.
Patrick as many of you will know, has motor neurone disease, a condition with progressive muscle weakening and an average survival of 34 months from first symptom. He is now over 3 years from his onset and although riding in a car is physically difficult and unpleasant for him, the balanced nature of flying (even mine!) is more manageable for him, and he is not the sort to resist a challenge.
We did this to raise money for the MND Association. The MNDA gives tremendous support to affected individuals and their families, but also funds research into this most unpleasant of diseases. We have good reason to hope that research is approaching the point where an effective treatment will be found within the next 5 years. We have paid all our own expenses so every penny of sponsorship, (less a small administration fee charged by justgiving for online donations) goes to the MNDA . We would be very grateful if you would sponsor us and help us get well past our initial target of £10,000. Very many thanks for your support!
David & Patrick