‘The idea of a blind person flying a plane is so ridiculous’

Jennifer ‘buzzing’ after amazing 45-minute flight

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A blind Inishowen woman who overcame her nerves to fly a plane for the first time concedes that she ‘must be a bit mad’.

Buncrana’s Jennifer Doherty took to the skies with a co-pilot in a small front-propelled plane. Her co-pilot performed the takeoff but the Inishowen girl then took over the controls for much of the 45-minute flight, including the landing.

The 28-year-old, who has been without sight from the age of eight months, joked that she was able to perform a much smoother landing than the Ryanair Boeing 737s at City of Derry Airport!

Jennifer said she was ‘buzzing’ after touching down on the runway.

“I never ever thought I’d be able to do something like this,” she said.

“The idea of a blind person flying a plane is just so ridiculous!”

The remarkable Buncrana woman admits that she almost backed out of the historic flight after being overcome with nerves beforehand.

“The plane was so small that we had to wait until the weather was perfect before we could go up. There was a wee bit of mist so we had to wait for that to lift before take-off. At that point I was so nervous; I really didn’t want to do it.”

But do it she did; her mind having been set at ease by the instructors from aerobility, a UK-based organisation that affords disabled people the opportunity to fly.

“They were really great,” Jennifer revealed.

“While we were waiting for the mist to clear they allowed me to feel all the parts of the plane. They explained how all the instruments work and that was a big help. Once I got up there, I loved it. I wanted to stay longer. I just concentrated on the flying,” she added.

Cruising at altitudes of around 10,000 feet, Jennifer said she took to the skies to raise awareness and funds for the Donegal Centre for Independent Living, where she works part-time.

DCIL training officer Shane Bradley praised Jennifer’s ‘fantastic effort’. He said her amazing flight has helped to promote a positive image of disabled people.

Shane, who filmed Jennifer’s journey from the back seat of the plane, said he wasn’t in the least bit nervous because he had ‘every confidence’ in the novice pilot’s ability.

To watch a video of the flight log onto www.vimeo.com/108720393