Blind Brit's Bid to Fly Around the World Continues

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A blind British pilot and adventurer landed in Darwin, Australia on Monday, ending the first leg of what he hopes will be a record-setting journey around the world.

Miles Hilton-Barber, 58, who has been blind for 25 years, is hoping to become the first blind aviator in history to fly from London to Sydney.

He is using a specially designed microlight plane and is accompanied by his sighted co-pilot.

Hilton-Barber set off on his epic journey from London on March 7, flying over Europe, the Middle East and southeast Asia before finally landing in Darwin.

Once safely on the ground, Hilton-Barber described to reporters at the airport the difficulties he encountered along the way, such as extreme temperature changes.

"We've had a few dodgy flights flying from Cyprus in the Mediterranean over the Lebanese mountains at 13,000 feet (3,960 meters) we got caught in a very bad, freaky snowstorm. So we actually had ice over our flying suits minus 25 (degrees Celsius) (minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit), ice sticking out from my legs, to feel through two layers of gloves," he said.

Then he encountered "some very bad thermal weather over Saudi Arabia in the desert where we were suddenly being catapulted upwards, 1500 feet (457 meters) a minute, down at that speed that's like getting in a lift and going up three floors in a second. And when you've got one little seatbelt on it's quite scary," he added.

As well as getting "caught in a terrible tropical downpour" over Penang.

"It was more like a waterfall," he said "the engine was bellowing away, you can hear it laboring trying to get through massive water."

Commenting on his choice of airplane, Hilton-Barber said the microlight plane is wonderful for a blind pilot "because it is very sensual. You can smell the smells coming up from the ground and I can feel the temperature, the wind, the cold, and it's a very physical way to fly."

Hilton-Barber is expected to complete the second leg of his trip to Sydney later this month.

In the past, Hilton-Barber has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, ran an 11-day ultra marathon from the Gobi Desert to the Great Wall of China and completed more than 40 skydives.

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