Daring pilots risk lives for charity

THREE daring helicopter pilots in the middle of a risky 6,000-mile challenge were happy to touch base and spend a few hours with a Backwell charity they are raising funds for.

Veteran pilot Charles McCann and his team Brian Johnston and Charles Stewart are flying a single engine helicopter, designed for small journeys, from Nord Kapp in Norway, across the North Sea to Cape Wrath and on to Capetown in South Africa.

Taking about four weeks, the crew of the Robinson R44, which flies only 300 nautical miles per full tank of fuel, departed in April, and will travel about 1,500 miles of the challenge over inhospitable waters.

The pilots, who are paying their own costs, hope to raise about �100,000 for two charities, humanitarian service providers Mission Aviation Fellowship and Backwell organisation Motivation, which provides low-cost wheelchairs for people in African and Asian countries.

The pilots touched down in a field next to Motivation’s headquarters in Brockley Lane, chatted to staff and volunteers and enjoyed a picnic and well-deserved break from their ardous journey.

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They talked about the risks involved in the Three Capes Helichallenge, including ditching into the sea, surviving in remote regions and hungry polar bears.

They even found time to take two members of staff, founder David Constantine and Lucy Norris, for a quick spin above Nailsea and Backwell.

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The charity’s communications officer Alexandra Vernon said: “The three pilots were delighted with the warm reception they received and we were relieved that our picnic, including a special helicopter cake, didn’t blow away when they landed.

“They were great guys who were really excited and enthusiastic about their challenge and about raising money for Motivation in the process.

“In these hard financial times, fundraising events like this mean so much to Motivation.

“Without them we would really struggle to keep doing what we do - supporting disabled people in the world’s poorest countries.”

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