Disabled pilot Tim reaches new heights in balloon

Disabled pilot Tim Ellison'Photo: MSMP130214-148js
Disabled pilot Tim Ellison'Photo: MSMP130214-148js
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A former RAF pilot left paralysed after a Harrier jet crash hopes to help others take flight after becoming the first qualified disabled balloon pilot in Europe.

Tim Ellison, 55, passed his General Flight Test in a hot air balloon after a training course in northern Italy.

Tim Ellison, from Stamford, and instructor Brian Jones in a specially-designed hot air balloon for disabled people. Photo: Chris Lepori

Tim Ellison, from Stamford, and instructor Brian Jones in a specially-designed hot air balloon for disabled people. Photo: Chris Lepori

Tim served as a Harrier weapons instructor at RAF Wittering for 11 years but was left paraplegic after his plane crashed in May 1992.

The jet suffered an engine failure while hovering at 120 feet – too low for Tim to eject.

After the crash he set his heart on once again taking to the air, and travelled to the US where he became the first paraplegic in the world to gain an Airline Transport Pilots Licence.

And he has now taken his dream one step further by qualifying to fly a hot air balloon.

Tim, who lives in Ketton, hopes to inspire other disabled people to take up flying.

He said: “It’s a huge step forward as far as disabled aviation and disabled balloon flying is concerned.

“Balloon flying is much more accessible, much cheaper and more available than flying planes.”

Tim worked with friend and instructor Brian Jones to create a custom chair to use in place of a traditional balloon basket. The two met through Aerobility, a charity Tim helped set up to give disabled people the chance to fly. Brian became the first person to circumnavigate the globe in 1999.

The pair are pictured left in their customised balloon.

Although Tim has been flying aeroplanes for a number of years now, he has found a new passion in piloting balloons.

He said: “You are completely out in the open and you get these wonderful views. It really enjoyed it - more than I thought I would.

“It’s totally different. You can really hear the sounds of the countryside.”

With the help of Brian and Aerobility, Tim intends to carry on piloting balloons. He is also considering teaching others to fly.

He said: “Brian is working really hard to provide flying scholarships. It’s surprisingly easy to get the basics. You only need 16 hours of instruction to take the test.”

Tim has a 22-year-old son George, who lives in Easton-on-the-Hill. He has a property business but spends most of his time working with Aerobility.

Tim paid tribute to station commanders and personnel he has worked with at RAF Wittering, where he keeps his own customised plane.

He said: “They have helped me immensely in my quest to improve things for disabled people in the country.

“My mission is to promote the possibility of disabled aviation to the disabled community.”

To find out more about disabled flying, visit the Aerobility website or call 0303 303 1230.