April 15, 2007

Blind Briton lands smallest aircraft at Dubai airport

Dubai: A blind aviator aiming to fly half way round the world could not have done so without including Dubai on his itinerary, and by doing so landed the smallest aircraft at Dubai airport in its history.

Briton Miles Hilton-Barber, 37, recently touched down in the UAE with his microlight aircraft, in which he plans to become the first blind aviator in history, to fly from London to Sydney.

Throughout the trip, awareness on genetic hereditary eye diseases was spread with the aim of raising money to help people with visual impairments gain access to treatment.

Hilton-Barber, who describes himself as 'blind as a bat' originally had hopes of becoming a fighter pilot when he was 18 but his dreams were dashed because of his poor eyesight.


He completely lost his sight about 20 years ago but it has not let that stop him from doing anything. On his blog he writes, "When I first went blind, I thought it was the worst thing that could happen to me - now I think it is probably the most exciting thing that has happened to me."

His long list of achievements is enough to make any extreme sports junkie green with envy.

His adventure CV includes attempting to be the first blind person to reach the South Pole whilst hauling a sledge over 250 miles across Antarctica, completing "The Toughest Foot-race on Earth" - 150 miles across the Sahara Desert in the Marathon des Sables, climbing to 17,500 feet in the Himalayas as well as Mount Kilimanjaro and Mont Blanc and running the 11-day Ultra-Marathon race across China from Gobi Desert to Great Wall, but this is only half the list.

Speaking to Gulf News from Penang in Malaysia, Hilton-Barber said the trip, which started on March 7 has been going by really fast. "We are a bit tight on schedule and due to weather considerations we just stayed one night in Dubai," he said.

The trip is being done to raise $1 million (Dh 3.67 million) for the Standard Chartered 'Seeing is Believing' programme, with the aim of making a difference to the lives of 10 million people by raising $10 million by World Sight Day 2010.

Hilton-Barber is accompanied by his sighted friend Richard Meredith-Hardy. Using revolutionary speech-output technology to fly the specially customised microlight plane, their journey will be completed in stages with the route following the classic London-Sydney 1919 Air Race, travelling across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, via Pakistan, India and Myanmar to Malaysia and Indonesia down to Darwin, then to Sydney.

Source: archive.gulfnews.com

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