June 03, 2018

Volunteers Week - read Andrea Lowndes story

Regular Aerobility Volunteer Andrea Lowndes tells us a little about her volunteering experience so far.

'Having had a wonderful career in aviation of 30 years, mainly as cabin crew on private jets, I really wanted to give something back.

Whilst looking for a hoist to get a friend who is a wheelchair user into an aircraft, a pilot friend of mine suggested I didn't try and reinvent the wheel and to go straight to Aerobility.

The Chief Flying Instructor, Mike Owen, took my friend flying at Aerobility's base at Blackbushe; she had an amazing trial flight and on that day I decided to pester the life out of this great charity until they gave me some voluntary work to do!

That was six years ago and my feet haven't touched the ground since..
In that time I've assisted with many events including the Global Flight Simulator challenge hosting the great astronaut Buzz Aldrin and radio presenter Chris Evans whilst our team managed to raise £100,000!

I have supervised many Aviation Experience days for young people and adults with all disabilities. For a time I was a volunteer coordinator, ensuring reception cover 6 days a week.

Even though I'm not a pilot I've supervised and assisted with flying days for all sorts of charities and organisations including the 'Stroke Association', 'Challengers' and WIS (wounded, injured and sick service men and women).  One soldier said after his trial flight, 'Well I've had four years of hell but I've just had 30 mins of sheer bliss!'

That's what makes this all worthwhile, knowing we're really making a difference to people's lives. Flying distracts people from their pain and troubles and it's an awesome confidence builder.

I was, for a time, coordinator for our Aviation Education programme which helped young people build confidence by gaining more knowledge about the aviation subjects they already loved. The course year culminated in a trial flight in an aircraft. It was so exciting to watch our students faces light up as they sat in the pilots seat on their Celebration day and the same day watching a young man on the Autistic spectrum who had arrived with zero self confidence finish his year doing a power point presentation with such skill and confidence, there wasn't a dry eye in the house by the time he'd finished.

I am able to call on my 'hosting' skills to volunteer at Aerobility's Aviators ball, a huge fund raising event we hold annually. I'm able to help people have a lovely evening whilst raising money and spreading awareness about the charity.

Yesterday another volunteer, who is a pilot,, and myself, an ex member of cabin crew, were tasked with meeting and greeting friends of the charity at our 'Picnic by the planes' event. It was like hosting our own party,
I met so many lovely friends of all ages that I've made over my time with the charity. 

I'm often asked to represent the charity working on a stand at air shows and various events. We always have a stand at the Farnborough Air Show and later in the year we are representing the charity at the BBC Children in Need's Carfest South.

I love working with young people and have two young relatives  on the autistic spectrum so once a month I assist with our Aviation Club for young people with disabilities. 

Every year a group of volunteers and myself organise a trip to take a group of young people to the Farnborough Airport Fire Station where they can be 'Fireman for a day'. The Firemen give them such a great day and it's an experience the young people wouldn't normally have access to.

Aerobility is a small charity so everybody mucks in and as a small, growing charity it's dynamic and continually evolving which is why I still love helping out where I can.'

Andrea Lowndes - June 2018.