It is not every day your wish comes true - but this Christmas it did for one Kilmarnock resident.
Stephen Thom was determined his learning disability was not going to hold him back - but, instead, put him literally in the pilot’s seat.
A resident of Newhouse care home in Galston Road, Hurlford, Kilmarnock, he placed his wish under the home’s ‘wish tree’. Simply worded, it said: ‘Go up in a plane, drive it, wear a captain uniform, fly over home.’
And thanks to the home’s manager Mark Lilley, disability charity Aerobility and Prestwick Airport South Ayrshire, he was soon flying a Piper PA-28 at an altitude of 2,500 feet, sharing the controls - and flying over his room.
Mr Lilley, who is manager of the residential home for adults with moderate to severe learning disabilities said Stephen, 46, had made incredible progress in the last 12 months.
“We have this wish tree and Stephen said he wanted to fly to Spain. But what he actually wrote on his wish was simply to fly over his home. So we hired a pilot’s outfit from the local fancy dress shop and we contacted Aerobility, who were just fantastic, and Stephen went flying with his key worker Gary and a pilot.”
As co-pilot, Stephen controlled the altitude of the plane by using the yoke, the airplane’s equivalent of a steering wheel. The yoke controls the elevators, two horizontal wing-like pieces that are on the tail of the plane. If the pilot wants to decrease the altitude, he pushes the yoke forward and points the nose of the plane down, which causes the elevators to point down.
Mr Lilley said: “He absolutely loved being at the controls, and made the plane dive down and back up, while the pilot kept dual control. He was in the air for about 1hr 30 minutes and we have film footage and photographs. Stephen absolutely loves watching it on our TV, as do visitors. We have it on a loop so he can watch it over and over.”
Stephen said: ”I loved it, I went up and down, and over my home, I made it go faster. I think Gary was scared. How many sleeps till I go again?"
Other requests on the wish tree have included a visit to Flamingoland and ‘High Tea’, and watching a Rangers football match and meeting the players - all of which have been fulfilled.
Requests still to be fulfilled include: ‘I want to go on a boat trip in Spring,’ ‘I want to go to Glasgow to find where my family grew up’, ‘I want to be with butterflies’, and ‘I want to go on a rollercoaster.’
For more information on the specialist services Priory Adult Care can offer, please call the enquiries and referrals team on 0808 208 2147 or click here to make an enquiry.