A BUSINESSMAN who took to the skies after a riding accident left him without the use of his legs has become one of the UK’s top aerobatics competition pilots.
Huddersfield-born John Askew, 63, has overcome his disability to hurtle through the skies at flying competitions across Europe.
John, who lived in Oakes until he was 20 and ran successful business EG Glass in the town, flies a high-performance CAP 232 plane which can climb at nearly 3,300ft a minute and can roll 420 degrees a second.
John used his own engineering skills to adapt the plane so that he can operate all the controls using his hands.
His left hand operates the rudder and throttle while his right hand operates the stick. Fast transitions into flick rolls or the application of full power to recover from spins mean the throttle has to be activated quickly.
To achieve this, John has installed a pneumatically-operated system, which he also designed, using components supplied and assembled by air compressor equipment specialist Thorite, which has a depot in Huddersfield.
John said: “Aerobatic manoeuvres have to be carried out very quickly and put a huge strain on both the airframe and the pilot, with pushing and pulling nine-Gs being quite normal.
“I needed the ability for the throttle to be really whacked open or closed ultra-quickly.”
The system is powered from an on-board carbon dioxide tank and regulator, using a rocker switch on top of the rudder lever.
Thorite employee Max Crosland helped John perfect the system.
This year, John has been training in France with internationally-acclaimed Red Bull Air Race pilot Nicolas Ivanoff.
His successes include third place in an advanced aerobatics competition at Elvington, near York, leading to his selection for the British team with which he gained fourth place in the nationals.
John is now one of only a handful of UK pilots with the ability to train for the ultimate aerobatics discipline – the Unlimited Level – and he has high hopes of success in this rarified company in 2012.