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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Blind pilot lands safely
Steve Cunningham
Steve Cunningham has been blind since he was 12

A father-of-two who lost his sight at the age of 12 has flown a plane to Northern Ireland.

On Monday, Steve Cunningham, 41, from Oxfordshire, completed the first leg of his bid to fly a plane around the UK - flying from Kent to Newcastle.

On Tuesday, he landed in Glasgow, and on Wednesday he arrived in Newtownards, County Down. He heads for Cardiff on Thursday morning.

He has a co-pilot, but talking computer software puts him in full control of the plane.

The software in the four-seater Piper Warrior light plane allows Mr Cunningham to receive constant updates on the plane's height, position and speed at the touch of a button.
The prompts come back every two seconds and it will tell me things like whether I'm flying level, whether I'm banking to the right, banking to the left, in a descent or in a climb
Steve Cunningham

His co-pilot acts as a look-out and checks that the information from the computer is correct.

"The prompts come back every two seconds and it will tell me things like whether I'm flying level, whether I'm banking to the right, banking to the left, in a descent or in a climb," he said.

Mr Cunningham developed glaucoma at the age of eight and within four years he was totally blind.

He has broken records for the fastest blind man on land and water and is also captain of the England Blind Football Team.

Mr Cunningham said not being able to focus visually had initially made flying very disorientating.

"We took off at about 11 o'clock this morning in Glasgow," he said.

"It was a bit bumpy for the first 10 minutes, but once we got out over the coast it was really smooth.

"There was no turbulence up there at all until we hit Ireland and then it was like a pea in a referee's whistle - we were up and down and all over the place.

"But we got down safely and it is great to be here."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Blind pilot Steve Cunningham:
"We got down safely and it is great to be here"



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