I’d never done anything like this. But on turning 40 last October I decided I wanted to do something adventurous. Some might call it a midlife crisis!
Having been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease 2 years earlier, I figured I could combine my need to feel young again with the opportunity to raise money and awareness for the fight against MND. MND is a fatal, rapidly progressing disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It affects the nerves that control movement so muscles no longer work. MND kills a third of people within a year and more than half within 2 years of diagnosis. There is no cure and not enough is known about the disease so raising awareness and money for research is essential. That said, I am one of the lucky ones. My condition is progressing untypically slowly meaning that whilst I have lost some movement in my legs I can still get around, and I am certainly able to take on a challenge!
I didn’t know what sort of challenge I was looking for, but I knew I wanted it to be spectacular enough to raise lots of money. I started to research the different options online and as soon as I saw Wing Walking I knew it was right for me. Without further ado I paid the deposit and secured a my place.
The date in question was 6 months away, which would give me plenty of time for fundraising. I set up a Just Giving page and shared the details on social media and via email. The response was phenomenal, I hit my initial £1,000 target within the first few days. As time passed the total kept going up, the support was overwhelming, everybody seemed to donate from close friends and family who I knew would step up, to colleagues past and present, very old family friends and even people I’d never even met!
After a slight set back when my original flight had to be postponed due to strong winds, the day arrived. On the drive over there I felt strangely calm about the whole thing, although I’ll admit to having a slight wobble when we pulled into the carpark and saw a tiger moth flying above. Suddenly it all felt a bit real! I was put at ease by the team there, everyone was so friendly and welcoming. By the time I’d finished the safety briefing I couldn’t wait to get going. I had a chat with my pilot (Tony) who was very relaxed and made me feel comfortable – he told me that we’d do 2 laps, the first to get used to it and on the second he’d ‘have some fun’ if I was up for it. I told him to go for it – well I’m only going to do this once!
Taxiing to the end of the runway seemed to take forever, by now I was all strapped in and ready to go. As Tony sped up to start our ascent the adrenaline was really pumping, I couldn’t believe that what I had been planning, promoting and looking forward to for 6 months was finally happening. The take-off itself was far smoother than I’d imagined and as we climbed into the Essex sky I felt completely calm, there was no fear at all just a feeling of excitement. Looking out at the view and feeling the strong, cold wind in my face I thought about all the support I’d received, the money we’d raised and the good that it would do. As we flew past the airfield where my family and friends were gathered I could see them waving, I gave them a triumphant wave back – I was quite literally on top of the world. Then we started the second lap, true to his word Tony started to make things more interesting turning sharply, diving straight down at approx. 130mph before pulling up sharply to make me feel the full g-force. At one point I thought we were going to loop the loop!!! It was like being on a very fast, very high rollercoaster and gave me a buzz like I have never experienced before. As we came down to land (again incredibly smoothly) I really didn’t want it to stop.
I feel so lucky to have completed such a thrilling challenge whilst raising so much money for a fantastic cause. Check out if you fancy donating my Just Giving page
The only thing I’m wondering now is what’s next…..
Guest blogger - Andrew Astle