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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Guide dogs earn their wings
Guide dog Terry, his owner Ken Weinling and Captain David Robertson
Golden retriever guide dog Terry is welcomed on board
Guide dogs will be given flight training to make journeys easier for blind travellers.

The scheme will help dogs acclimatise to the sights, smells and sounds of flying.

Owners will then be able to keep the dogs with them when they are travelling by plane.

Ken Weinling, 54, chairman of the Hillingdon branch of Guide Dogs in London, said the initiative would help "open up access for air travel to guide dog owners".

It's made visiting my wife's family in Rotterdam much easier

David Clarke
Guide dog owner

The scheme, being run by BMI British Midland, gives the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association eight free flights a year on which to train guide dogs.

The move has been welcomed by guide dog owners.

Ms Smith, a singer-songwriter from Soho, central London, said: "I've encountered difficulties with some operatives in the past who have put my dog into the cargo hold."

David Clarke, 31, from Harpenden, Hertfordshire, said the training programme had taken the hassle out of flying with his dog, Isaac.

"It's made visiting my wife's family in Rotterdam much easier," he said.

Austin Reid, chief executive officer of BMI British Midland, said the airline was delighted to offer its support.

He said: "We are extremely pleased to be able to give the first guide dogs their wings."

Guide dog trainer Graham Poole said the dogs were taken onboard all sorts of public transport during their training, which would last between six and eight months.

See also:

12 Jan 00 | Health
28 Oct 00 | Americas
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