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Friday, 12 January, 2001, 14:52 GMT
Polly the aviator answers your questions

Polly Vacher is attempting to circumnavigate the world in the smallest aircraft flown solo by a woman.

BBC correspondent Rebecca Jones put your questons to Polly at Birmingham International Airport before she took off on Friday morning.

Click on the button below to watch the forum.

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Transcript


Joan Lennon, United States:

When did you decide to do this trip?


Polly Vacher:

It has really progressed from having flown solo across the States in this aircraft where I got the taste for long-distance flying and the next challenge was to fly around the world.


Rebecca Jones:

You are on your own for such a long time, does it get lonely and how do you cope?


Polly Vacher:

It does and it doesn't get lonely. There is always air traffic control to talk to and also on the radio we can talk to airlines passing overhead. They have a lot of time on their hands when on these long journeys and so they are only too pleased to have a talk to solo pilots from around the world.


Zoe Browne:

How did you mentally prepare for the trip?


Polly Vacher:

I had been thinking about it for a long, long time. I am a fairly positive person anyway and I suppose I am just very relaxed about it. I like my own company, I have a very good supportive team being my husband and the team behind me. I am very happy and relaxed about doing it and it wasn't a problem.


Rebecca Jones:

Zoe goes on to ask you how you keep positive if things get difficult? Presumably it could also be quite dangerous?


Polly Vacher:

It could be dangerous to walk across the road! Yes, of course it could be dangerous but that is part of the training. I have done a lot of training and I have the ability, I believe, to keep calm if something isn't going according to plan. I have great faith that I have a lot of support and that I will be able to cope with the difficulties. I hope I will - one can never say of course.


Tom Cripps, United States:

How have you prepared for an emergency landing at sea?


Polly Vacher:

God forbid! I have actually done a proper dumping and ditching course at the Fleetwood Nautical College near Blackpool in England. That was quite scary as they actually put you in an aircraft cockpit and dropped the cockpit from a crane right into the water and then you had to wait until it was fully submerged, open the door and then get out. So I have done that. I have also done some low flying over water to familiarise myself with how to pick up the winds and to see the best place to land on the waves. But hopefully that will not happen.


Rebecca Jones:

I think some of your survival training was also about food and water and surviving in the desert was it not?


Polly Vacher:

Yes, I did go on a desert and jungle survival course and talking about food, I did actually eat worms but they weren't as bad as you might imagine - they were like crunchy chicken!


Naomi:

What food and water have got for the flight?


Polly Vacher:

I don't eat a lot on the flight so I have muesli bars because they contain a lot of bulk and sugar and just bottled water - that is all.


Rebecca Jones:

There has been a lot of publicity recently about the dangers of long flights and the importance of keeping moving - what do you do as you are in such a confined space?


Polly Vacher:

I do have an hourly routine which involves talking to air traffic control, doing the checks of the aircraft, checking the fuel etc and in that hourly routine I often have an exercise routine which I do religiously every hour as I do know that if you don't keep the circulation going you may have problems, especially in a confined space. I can't get up and walk around like you can in a normal aircraft so I have to do this routine - it is very important.


Rebecca Jones:

One final question. What it is all in aid of? Why are you doing this?


Polly Vacher:

I am doing this to raise awareness of and funds for the Royal International Air Tattoo Flying Scholarships for the Disabled which is a wonderful scheme which helps disabled people come to terms with their disability through the challenge of learning to fly. It is a challenge for anyone to learn to fly - we all grow in confidence and self-esteem. It does help disabled people to come to terms with their disabilities and make a life for themselves which is great to see and something in which we are very involved.


Rebecca Jones:

Good luck and thank you very much for talking to us. Do keep in touch on the trip and incredibly Polly isn't due back here at Birmingham International Airport until May 14th. It promises to be quite a journey.

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