Lyle Weir set out from Gloucestershire Airport on an epic 4,000-mile charity flight on 1 September to raise vital funds for The Mix – a leading mental health charity providing support for under 25’s. Landing safely back at the airport on 6 September having completed the journey in a flight time of 35 hours over six days, Lyle smashed his original target of 40 hours.
Lyle completed the trip in Piper Arrow – a single aircraft engine provided by Gloucestershire Airport tenant, Aeros Flight Training, who also provided Lyle with the flight training necessary to undertake the journey. The endeavour required Lyle to make scheduled stops at 20 locations across the UK – from Isles of Scilly to the Shetland Isles up in Scotland.
“I’ve done most of my training in the south west where we have fairly reliable weather”, Lyle explains, “so there was some degree of trepidation as we set off knowing we’d be flying to Scotland and the Shetland Isles where you’re at the mercy of rapidly changing weather conditions.”
Weather conditions made a significant contribution to Lyle bringing in his flight time at less than 40 hours. “We had a fantastic tail wind that swept us up the coast over the first few days which meant we made exceptionally good time. However, we are flying into a really strong head wind the whole way down from the Isle of Man to Gloucester which made it feel like we were barely moving.”
“More startling when 15 minutes after taking off from the Isles of Scilly they closed the airfield because the cloud had dropped and storms were coming in. The thunderstorm over Jersey would have been impressive had we not caught glimpses of a lightning strike off the wing!”
Growing up in Gloucester, Lyle became ‘hooked’ on flying from a young age after regular visits to Gloucestershire Airport with his grandfather. He has since doggedly sought to realise his dream of forging a career in aviation. Having sown the seeds of Lyle’s ambition with those early trips, his grandfather has also proven the inspiration for this charity flight – the idea for which was borne after his sad passing found Lyle battling his own mental health issues.
“Everyone is touched by grief or has their own story about battling mental health,” explains Lyle. “I set off on this trip hoping that if nothing else, it would serve as a catalyst to encourage people to open up and talk about mental health – especially young people.”
“What I hadn’t expected in doing this trip, and what will remain especially poignant for me for quite some time to come, is that without fail at each scheduled stop location someone came up to speak to us and talk about their own experiences battling mental health whether that was personally or supporting a close friend or family member.”
“Some of the stories we heard were heart breaking – particularly when we heard about gaps in support and provision. With this trip I wanted to make some small part in getting people to talk and realise that they’re not on their own, so this for me was success.”
Lyle continues, “Mental health issues impact everyone in some way and while significant progress has been made – the stigma still remains when it comes to talking about it. This trip taught me that we’re not alone. There is support out there which means you don’t have to confront challenges alone.”
Karen Taylor, Managing Director of Gloucestershire Airport was there to congratulate Lyle on his return. “What Lyle’s achieved is amazing – not just the flight, but the contribution he’s making to help raise awareness about mental health issues both through his fundraising efforts and by opening up and sharing his own experience. We’re honoured to have played a part in making this flight happen – not least having contributed to the many happy memories Lyle has of visiting the airport as a child with his grandfather which have fuelled his ambition to forge a career in aviation.”
“The support Aero Flight Training has given Lyle in terms of training and providing the aircraft he completed the trip in – also deserves huge praise. We wish Lyle the very best in his ongoing fundraising efforts and future charity work.”
Having successfully completed his journey, Lyle is well on the way to hitting the target he set himself to raise £10,000 for The Mix. Anyone wishing to support his efforts can make a donation through his Go Fund Me page: Weir Airbourne.