Armed Forces Day with Blesma and Al Hodgson

28 June 2019

Written by: Jonathan Sidgwick

On 26th June, in celebration of Armed Forces Day, iFLY Manchester hosted an event with Blesma, The Limbless Veterans, supporting the inclusive nature of Indoor Skydiving.

Al Hodgson, a former Paratrooper who lost both legs serving for the armed forces in Northern Ireland in 1992, was joined by 17 ex-servicemen and women from Blesma, to take part in a wind tunnel skydiving session. The veterans included Invictus Games competitor, Lisa Johnston, as well as motivational speaker, Sargent Rick Clement who lost his legs whilst serving in Afghanistan.

Al Hodgson has acted as a champion for Indoor Skydiving since becoming the first double amputee to be trained as a skydiver post-injury. Over the last 20 years Al has completed over 7,000 outdoor jumps and won multiple competitions, including a silver medal at the 2010 FAI World Skydiving Championships.

With Indoor Skydiving taking many forms (from basic body flying, to the extreme aerobatics demonstrated by experienced pro-flyers, and iFLY’s own instructor team!), it’s easy to see how someone who hasn’t experienced Indoor Skydiving might think that they wouldn’t be able to physically do it.

This is a preconception iFLY have been working over the last 6 months to challenge and change, and to this end, we created the role of Inclusivity Ambassador. Someone with the passion for Indoor Skydiving, who can champion its inclusive nature, serving as an example of how iFLY can deliver the dream of flight to everyone.

The Armed Forces Day event was the perfect ALL Abilities demonstration, and in recognition of his continuing work to support iFLY’s inclusive nature, it was our honour to officially appoint Al Hodgson as iFLY’s newest Inclusivity Ambassador.

Al Hodgson said of his appointment

Skydiving in a wind tunnel is pure fun, there’s no other way to describe it. It really doesn’t matter how many times you do it, it still gives you a thrill. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone thinking about giving it a go – get in there and have a whale of a time! Skydiving is great for building your confidence again when you’ve suffered from high levels of trauma.” 

iFLY UK Manager, Trevor Haines said

We’ve accompanied Al on his journey as a skydiver for many years and are delighted to appoint him as an iFLY Inclusivity Ambassador. We’re passionate about making the dream of flight a reality for people of all ages and ALL Abilities and hope that his experience will inspire others to get involved – it really is the most incredible feeling.” He continued, “It’s been amazing to have veterans from Blesma here today to enjoy the experience too, we’ve had complete newbies give it a go, as well as those who have experienced it before – it’s great to watch peoples’ reaction to the experience!

Al was presented with his Inclusivity Ambassador certificate by Glen Mills, who was appointed as iFLY’s first Inclusivity Ambassador in February. The event concluded with a buffet in our conference room, where Blesma members recounted their flying experience with the iFLY team, discussed the possibilities of return visits and working more closely moving forward. The positivity surrounding the event was overwhelming and we look forward to working with both Al and Blesma on future events.

Further Info

More on iFLY’s All Abilities packages can be found here

Wanna hear more about AL Hodgson? Find out what Indoor Skydiving means to him.

This story was also covered by the Daily Mail; you can read the article here