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Sat, May 03, 2003

And Now For Something Completely Different

British Pilot Hopes To Circumnavigate Earth On Polar Route

Polly Vacher is leaving the comforts of her Oxfordshire home to embark on a brave attempt to become the first solo pilot to circumnavigate the world via the North and South poles in a single-engine light aircraft.

The 58-year-old pilot, who is raising money for Flying Scholarships for the Disabled, is sponsored by Shell Aviation and will begin the journey on 6 May from Birmingham International Airport.

Her route sees her fly across Norway, the North Pole and Canada to the United States where she will attend the Oshkosh Air Show in Wisconsin, the world's largest rally of light aircraft. This year's show, held July 29 to August 4, promises to be even more spectacular than previous years because 2003 marks the 100th anniversary of powered flight.

Mrs. Vacher continues through Central and South America to the South Pole. She will then fly back to England via Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, India, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The stop in Jordan holds special significance because King Hussein, the country's former king who died in 1999, was a patron of Flying Scholarships for the Disabled. Her Majesty Queen Noor of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is now a patron of the charity.

She said: "King Hussein helped to establish the charity in memory of Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader a pilot who lost both legs in an accident but went on to fly with tin legs and become an ace pilot in World War II."

Flying Scholarships for the Disabled uses the intellectual challenge of learning to fly to help the disabled prove to others, and themselves, that they can regain their confidence and face exciting new adventures.

Mrs Vacher's own passion for flight began in 1989 when she completed a tandem sky dive for charity. "I became hooked on sky diving and have completed 245 jumps but nothing would convince my husband to jump out of a plane. We like doing things together so we both took up flying instead."

She has already circumnavigated the world once before in 2001 and takes any nervousness regarding her upcoming journey in her stride. "I wouldn't be human if I didn't feel nervous so I keep very, very busy and I prepare very, very well. Attention to detail is essential."



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