Or is it……?
Its a crisp autumn morning, the bright yellow light in the clear blue sky is glowing and glinting off of every shard of glass. Unlike Alex Guandino my destination was known. Heathrow Airport was my next stop.
First challenge was to leave the ever faithful assistance dog Ziggy behind, why ? The first consideration was he going to be alone? That was easily answered, the second was what contingencies could I put in place to deal with my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I have developed many coping strategies over the years to manage in situations like this so I reverted to these.
Enough babble, I was attending the British Airways (BA) Flight Simulator organised through Help For Heroes. 40 Veterans from every service were present and given this amazing opportunity to fly in a flight simulator.
This was not sitting in front of a computer screen with your joystick this was a multimillion pound system that mirrored everything in the cockpit of the variants of aircraft used by BA. It wasn’t only this I also had the opportunity to see the amazing Heathrow Fire Service in action (training), amongst the other equipment used to keep the airport working.
This sounds fun throw into the mix PTSD and a heart rate average of 100bpm it turns something enjoyable into a draining but awesome experience. Not taking away from the amazing staff of BA and the Heathrow Fire Service along with the staff of Help For Heroes, it was the company of like minded Veterans and Service Personnel who were experiencing similar experiences.
Now entering the £10 Million simulator pod set up to replicate a Boeing 747, a fully immersive experience with realistic principles of flight just without the wings! Sitting in this pod gave me focus as I strapped into the harness I focused on the ‘outside’ world and the equipment in the cockpit . Clearance was given throttle up flaps adjusted and brakes released. Pulling up the nose of the plane leaving the runway, I was now in flight heading up to 3000 feet retracting the gears. I felt the amazing sense of relief the anxiety and hypervigilance drained from my PTSD bug and began to feed the new bug of flight. Not for a long time had I felt so ‘normal’ in a frankly abnormal situation.
After landing and taking off a number of times, the experience came to a close. The day ended and the drive home. What an amazing experience one I am grateful for its showed me that I could do things I had lost the confidence to do.
It showed me that I could do things outside of my comfort zone but by working hard talking to people and being open and honest that I have PTSD and that its horrendous at times I can and I will continue to work through this and offer the peer support to others to help them.
As a final note this one day took two days out of me it wasn’t easier this was one day (6 hours it wiped me out for two, I am by far match fit but I am heading in the right direction.
As an extra bonus I met the inspirational Bruce Dickenson of Iron Maiden, who has done many amazing things in his life and supports our troops he also has a autobiography out called:
‘ What does this button do’
Thanks for not being bored, no matter what you think the sky is not the limit look beyond the limit and work towards it. You can do it I can do it.