A dream came true for 74 passengers this week as British Airways and Aerobility, a charity that gives people with disability the chance to fly, took to the skies to see the Aurora, or Northern Lights.

The Aerobility charter flight, supported by British Airways and manned by volunteer crew, flew from Gatwick to 61 degrees north just off the coast of the Shetland Isles, to witness the celestial phenomenon on Saturday March 1, 2014.

On the flight, BBC’s The Sky at Night presenters Pete Lawrence and Dr Paul Abel, were guest speakers, along with Mike Miller-Smith MBE, CEO of the charity and Senior First Officer and Chairman, Shona Bowman.

The flight took off at 8.20pm and shortly after departure, the cabin lights were turned off to prepare for the evening events, and help the passengers’ eyes adjust to the night sky with little light pollution from the A320 aircraft. The aircraft returned to Gatwick at around midnight.

BBC’s Pete Lawrence entertained the customers and crew alike with a running commentary over the PA throughout the flight, pointing out star constellations as well as the green and red light formations, while passengers peered out the window.

“We flew to the edge of British airspace and sometimes you don’t know if you will be lucky, especially with light pollution. But tonight, we got the icing on the cake with a clear, green aurora. It’s like whale watching – you’re not always sure what you will see.

Mike Miller-Smith MBE, CEO of Aerobility, said: “I had the idea about a year ago and with a lot of hard work and planning, and with the help of BA, it’s come true.

“The people onboard, the passengers, the crew, have been amazing. As a wheelchair user myself, to give people with disability the chance to board a plane and experience this is fantastic. What we saw was such a special experience and I hope we can do it again next year.”
Last year Mike delivered a speech at a British Airways pilot forum about passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs) and had a profound impact on many of the attendees. From here, his involvement with the airline grew and in 2013, British Airways recognized Aerobility as one of its supported charities, and donates tickets and flight simulator experiences to auction off to help people with disability to experience the magic of flying.

BA Senior First Officer Shona Bowman, and Chairman of the charity, added: “We had a great night tonight and judging by some of the photographs we have seen, the Northern Lights really lived up to expectations”

Cabin crew Michelle Oakes was delighted to see the lights but more importantly, give up her time to support the charity: “To see the lights is on my bucket list but I knew it would be a once in a lifetime experience for a lot of people onboard and I really wanted to be part of that”.

For more information about Aereobility, visit aerobility.com.