A Gainsborough pilot who overcame mobility problems has been awarded a top award to celebrate her first solo flight.
Sherrill Semple, 47, was one of 11 aviators who received their wings, marking the fact that they’ve flown solo, from HRH Prince Faisal of Jordan at the presentation ceremony for Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT ) Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP).
Nineteen years ago, Sherrill was diagnosed with Heresity Spastic Paraplegia which has impacted on every aspect of her life, including her mobility and ability to complete everyday tasks.
Sherrill said: “I was introduced to the FSDP website by a friend at a time when I needed a confidence boost, so I applied for a 2014 scholarship and was selected.
“When I heard I’d been selected I was beside myself, hugely excited.
“I did wonder if I’d actually be able to do it, but I flew solo at the end of my 25 hours training and I’m hoping to have my Private Pilots’ Licence by this time next year.
“It’s been a life-changing experience, and I’ve proved to myself that I can do things.”
Sherrill learnt to fly an Icarus C-42 ultralight with Shadow Aviation at Old Sarum in Wiltshire.
She added: “At the end of my training, I landed the Icarus and my instructor just got out and said ‘off you go’ and off I went.
“It was one of those moments when you think ‘oh my god’ but I followed my training, enjoyed myself and landed knowing I’d just achieved something very special.”
For Sherrill, the icing on the cake at RIAT was the FSDP presentation ceremony, when she was jointly awarded The Wings around the World Trophy with her friend, fellow scholar Carolyne Sibley Harris.
The trophy honours the woman who’s achieved the most from the flight training experience, and both ladies were delighted to share the award.
The two scholars only met at the selection panel at RAF Cranwell and have become firm friends through their joint experiences.
Carolyne said: “We quickly teamed up, and we were paired for training at the same flying school, at the same time.
“I call Sherrill my wingman, and we’ve both now flown solo.
“To win the trophy between us is perfection.”
Sherrill said: “I was sure Carolyne would win it, and she thought I would, so to share the honour between us is brilliant.”
At the airshow, Sherrill also got to meet her sponsor, television celebrity Carol Vorderman.