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Airline Pilot Is Flying High With The Help Of Dorset Orthopaedic

An airline pilot who lost his leg 18 months ago is back to his airborne best — and part of the UK’s first disabled flying team — thanks to a remarkable recovery and the help of clinicians at Dorset Orthopaedic.

Mike Wildeman, 56, from Bournemouth, lived in constant pain in his foot and ankle for 18 years following a motorcycle accident. Eventually, owing to the pain and the degradation of the bones in his leg, he decided to have it amputated below the knee.

Having been a patient at Dorset Orthopaedic’s southern clinic in Ringwood for around ten years owing to his injury, the Dorset team were there throughout the entire process, coming up with his rehab plan pre-surgery and getting him up on his prosthesis within six weeks of surgery.

Now, the former RAF Pilot, who has worked for a well-known airline for 22 years, is waiting for the green light from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly airliner again, which he hopes will come soon.

He said: “It’s very rare for someone with a lower limb amputation to captain a long haul airliner, but I really hope I can get back to doing what I love, and with a great company.”

But while he awaits his confirmation, he’s been busy working as an Airbus A320 instructor and examiner at the L3 CTS Airline Pilot Training Academy in Southampton, and working as team leader for Bader’s Bus Company, the UK’s first disabled flying display team. The initiative is being led and financed by the Douglas Bader Foundation — which helps children and adults with limb loss in the form of grants, aviator and activity days and various forms of support and advice.

The team, which was finalised at the beginning of the year, comprises Mike, Barry Hobkirk, Alan Robinson and team manager Alex Krol, and will make its first public display in a month’s time.

Mike said: “It’s very exciting and we hope it gives us a platform to expand and maybe even get some different planes which will be able to perform more tricks, and we’ll be able to show off what we can do. This year though, our displays will be in close formation, which is pretty good considering there are only two good legs between the four of us!”

Ahead of his amputation, Matt Hughes from Dorset Orthopaedic introduced Mike to people who were already amputees, to show what could be done. Mike added: “Meeting people who’d already had amputations totally changed my view on disability, and what was possible. It helped me realise it was the right thing to do. And I’m so glad I did, it’s a pleasure to walk pain free, over further distances and on all terrains. And also go on the beach, which I wasn’t able to do for a very long time.

“Then, when I was asked to be a part of the team it was a great incentive for me to get fit and ready.”

Mike wears a Rush Foot 87 for everyday use, but also has an Ossur Elation for flying his light aircraft, and a Rush Foot H2O, for when he’s on the beach or in the water.

For more information about the Bader’s Bus Company and the Douglas Bader Foundation, visit www.douglasbaderfoundation.com

For more information about Dorset Orthopaedic’s range of products and services, visit www.dorset-ortho.com