Blind veteran and partner from Lindfield to fly 2,800 miles in hot air balloon

Mike Scholes and Deborah Day aim to beat three world records and raise the profile of Blind Veterans UK
Mike Scholes and Deborah Day aim to beat three world records and raise the profile of Blind Veterans UK

A blind veteran and his partner are to fly 2,800 miles across the Atlantic ocean in a hot air balloon.

Mike Scholes, 64, and Deborah Day, 54, from Lindfield, are taking on the challenge to try and beat three world records and to raise the profile of Blind Veterans UK charity.

I am looking forward to it and I am excited about it.

Mike Scholes

They will be embarking the journey next spring and are now seeking sponsorship for the flight.

Mr Scholes, a former helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm and a record-breaking British balloonist who ran his own passenger balloon company, lost his sight ten years ago.

He went on to successfully attempt several long-distance challenges, including to the North Pole and 14 marathons.

He suffers from Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, a rare condition that affects 100 people, mostly men, in the UK every year.

His aim is to set the record for the first registered blind person to crew a balloon across the Atlantic.

He said: “I am looking forward to it and I am excited about it. We have lots of planning to do.

“There is always an element of danger and an element of risk but we will calculate the ‘what if’s’.”

Mrs Day is one of the UK’s few qualified balloon pilots with numerous long-distance balloon flights under her belt.

An experienced triathlete, she has completed in and is previous winner of a team event at the London Marathon.

Her aim is to beat the world women’s distance and duration record and set the record for the first woman to be the sole pilot of an Atlantic balloon crossing.

The couple’s journey is is expected to last five to ten days.

They will be setting off from Darmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, to Dartmouth, Devon, in a two-person gas Rozière balloon and will travel at heights in excess of 18,000ft.

While there have been several attempts to fly the Atlantic in a gas balloon, more have failed than succeeded.

The £53,000 85ft envelope for the Rozière combination balloon is being made specially for the couple’s trip by veteran world balloon engineers Cameron Balloons.

The unique design of the Rozière gives the pilot greater control and buoyancy over long distances by using a combination of a helium filled sphere with a small burner to heat the air beneath it, keeping the gas warm at night.

A super lightweight two-man basket will carry supplies, helium tanks, oxygen and masks for high-altitude flying, sub-zero temperature clothing, a solar-powered iPad using a unique app for inflight monitoring, survival and rescue

equipment for a marine landing, satellite phones and other communication equipment.

When not ballooning, the couple are directors of Hairworks in Lindfield.

Blind Veterans UK was set up by founder of the Daily Express Sir Arthur Pearson in 1915 to support ex-servicemen.

It continues to provide free support and services to vision-impaired ex-Armed forces and national service personnel.

It helped former Mr Scholes come to terms with his sight loss.

People can keep up to date with the couple’s challenge on their Facebook and Twitter pages: @BalloonthePond @BalloonthePond.

People who are interested in sponsoring the couple can email Lea Graham Associates at: pr@leagraham.com.

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