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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 18:24 GMT
Blind man determined to fly solo
Jamie Weller (right) in balloon basket
Jamie Weller is clocking up "air time" before his test
A 36-year-old tax accountant from Nottingham who has been blind for 16 years is aiming for the skies.

Jamie Weller was diagnosed with cone dystrophy, a degenerative eye condition, while he was serving in the Royal Navy.

His aim is to qualify for his pilot's licence so he can fly a hot air balloon - with some conditions attached.

He still needs to clock up more flying hours, but he is determined to pass the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) test.

The CAA told BBC News that all pilots need to "hold an appropriate medical without which the licence cannot be used".

It's always been a dream for me to fly - it is such an achievement for me to do this
Jamie Weller

It is currently awaiting a series of reports which will help to assess whether Mr Weller is in a position to be able to gain a medical certificate.

A CAA statement said it "has supported many disabled flyers in gaining a licence providing the necessary safety levels can be achieved".

Mr Weller has no central vision so for him flying is not at all about spectacular views.

He suffered from a genetic condition which meant his retinas were prone to sun damage, so working outdoors all day in harsh sunlight soon left him with only minimal vision.

"It's always been a dream for me to fly - it is such an achievement for me to do this".

He said flying "gives me a sense of freedom that I haven't had for 16 years".

"It will enable me to fly independently using my own skills - with little input from other people."

Wind sense

A great deal of his support comes from St Dunstan's - a charity which for 90 years has been caring for blind ex-servicemen.

He spent six months at its rehabilitation centre in Brighton where he met other veterans.

When he flies, he is accompanied by a co-pilot who advises him on obstacles and landing areas.

"My safety person - my co-pilot - acts as my eyes," he explained.

"I use my other senses... I feel the balloon and respond to the balloon as I am flying it. I feel the wind in my face that gives me input on wind direction."

Blind man attempts balloon flight
13 Aug 04 |  Nottinghamshire


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