Content Warning: This article contains a reference to sexual assault and suicide
A former pilot who experienced a mental health break down while flying has spoken of the trauma that led him to that point, what put him on the road to recovery and how his career has seen him working alongside men like Peaky Blinders actor Tom Hardy.
Mac Mackenney was a helicopter technician in the British Army and then a trainee fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force. While he was training to be a pilot a close friend of his was date raped. Every weekend he would travel from Lincolnshire to Devon to be with her in the hope that he could prevent her from committing suicide.
During this time, he thought he was just getting tired, but it was having a greater psychological effect on him that he realised. He said:
“One Monday morning I was half asleep and shouldn’t really have been in the air.
“Was doing some aerobatics and something inside just snapped and I had one of those horrible I want to get out of this plane, right here, right now, moments.”
Mac was faced with two choices, eject or crash.
In a split second Mac realised he couldn’t eject because the plane would crash and kill hundreds of people. Eventually, he managed to land the aircraft, but the traumatic flight cost him his career.
After this, he felt as though his world had smashed into a thousand pieces.
In order to help himself and others, Mac set up 'Driven To Extremes' in 2017, a charity raising money for military and emergency service veterans suffering from PTSD.
The charity takes veterans on “challenging vehicle adventures & expeditions to aid their recovery”. They also employ many veterans to organise and lead adventure tours for paying customers.
Many of these veterans felt that therapy wasn’t the right course of action for them in their struggle with PTSD.
In the clip below, a veteran explains how he benefits from Driven To Extremes. He said:
“I don’t get a lot from therapy and sitting down with someone who doesn’t really know what I’m talking about.
“When you stick an adventure twist on something it appeals to our personalities, I guess. That’s one of the reasons we joined the Corps.”
Mac eventually left the armed forces to take on extreme expeditions. He was Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ right-hand man on his last North Pole trip; organised the logistics for the largest ever medical research expedition on Everest and took Hollywood actor Tom Hardy to drive the world's coldest road. He said:
“It’s 25 years' worth of messing around in remote parts of the world.”
Sahara Bug Rally is the next fund-raising adventure for Driven To Extremes. The 17-day drive will see thrill-seekers take on the Dakar Rally route in Morocco.
If you are willing to drive a VW Beetle, costing as little as £300, across the Sahara Desert then this might just be the adventure you've been searching for.
It will be the "ultimate test of teamwork to reach the finish line as teams battle their way across 1,000 miles of sand, rock, and gravel".
Pictures: Driven To Extremes