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Blind Veteran Prepares For Transatlantic Balloon Crossing

An ex-Royal Navy pilot will fly from Canada to the UK later this year.

A registered blind ex-Royal Navy pilot and his partner are planning to conduct an ambitious journey from Canada to the UK across the Atlantic Ocean.

Balloonist Mike Scholes and his partner Deborah Day aim to raise the profile of Blind Veterans UK as they fly from Canada to Dartmouth.

Mike Scholes about to jump in water during training 050319 CREDIT BFBS
Mike Scholes is learning what to do in case of an emergency ditching.

The couple took part in sea survival training at Horsea Island, off the northern shore of Portsmouth Harbour, in preparation for their flight later this year.

At the centre, which specialises in naval recruit training, the couple jumped off the 12-foot platform and into the dive training lake, learning how to stay afloat and get into a life raft.

They are using the facilities at the Royal Navy’s Phoenix Training group to learn what to do in case of an emergency ditching.

Mike Scholes and his partner during training 050319 CREDIT BFBS
Mike Scholes and Deborah Day during their training.

During training, Ms Day's role is crucial - her voice to be used as a guide for Mike to get them both safely into the raft.

"It was very useful and very worthwhile," says Mr Scholes.

"Because Mike has issues with visibility, we need to have a routine that is practised for that scenario," explains Ms Day.

Mike and his partner 050319 CREDIT BFBS
The couple took part in sea survival training in preparation for their flight later this year.

The Navy trainers were impressed with the progress the pair have made over their training.

"We get trainees every day who find it very hard", says Lieutenant Daryl Kirton as he remarks how tough it can be for people without visual impairments to operate in water under pressure.

"It's extremely brilliant."

Mike and his partner during training in water 050319 CREDIT BFBS
In-water training at the Royal Navy’s Phoenix Training group.

Mr Scholes and Ms Day are experienced balloonists but they have never tried anything as demanding as this.

They hope the training they undertook near Portsmouth will never need to be put into action as they fly across the Atlantic.

Depending on the weather, they plan to set off from Canada bound for the UK at the end of June.