Berkshire woman with rare heart condition learns to fly a plane

Watch: report by ITV News Meridian's Mel Bloor

A former banker from Thatcham, who was forced to retire in her 30s due to a medical condition, says learning to fly a plane has given her a new lease of life.

Rebecca Giddings, who has a rare heart condition, was awarded a scholarship with the charity Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP) and has since completed 20 hours of flying.

Here's Rebecca's story. 


The first time someone gives you control of a plane and you're hurtling down the runway and all of a sudden you're in the air and it's you, you're in control. It's terrifying and freeing and amazing and exhilarating all at the same time. There's no feeling like it.

Rebecca Giddings

Rebecca, a step-mum of three, had just returned from a holiday in Mexico when she started suffering chest pain.

Being only 33-years-old at the time, she put it down to work stress and carried on with life.

But the pain got worse and following tests in hospital, she was diagnosed with a rare heart problem and a complex and debilitating condition called Ethler's Danlos Syndrome.

Rebecca was diagnosed with Ethler's Danlos Syndrome

Rebecca struggled to walk or do the simplest of tasks when she was awarded a scholarship with Flying Scholarships for Disabled People.

Rebecca Giddings

FSDP's mission is to inspire disabled adults, building their confidence, self-esteem and future aspirations through the sharing of life changing aviation experiences.

The charity was founded in 1983 by Paul Bowen of the Royal International Air Tattoo, in memory of Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, a disabled wartime fighter ace who lost both his legs in an accident in 1931.


As soon as you get up there, I can almost feel my whole body relax and it's almost quite visible as well that you can see that happening and the process of that four weeks of flying helped me come to terms with this grieving process with the fact I wasn't going to be the person who I was and that I needed to change my focus and stop trying to get back to that.

Rebecca Giddings

Mr Bowen's son, Guy Bowen, is the current chairman of FSDP.

Guy Bowen, Chairman of Flying Scholarships for Disabled People

Since her scholarship, Rebecca has restarted work on a PhD in Ethics and Financial Services, has taken up archery and started singing lessons. 

She says learning to fly has helped her to look forward instead of backwards and hopes by sharing her story, it will inspire others.

For more information on Flying Scholarships for Disabled People, please click here

Rebecca has now restarted work on a PhD in ethics and financial services