A COUPLE who have taught hundreds of disabled people to fly in specially adapted microlights have been forced to leave Old Sarum airfield after 27 years.

Ray Proost, who runs the Shadow Flight Centre with partner Fiona Luckhurst, said they were ousted following the recent ban on all but commercial aviation by the owners of the First World War airstrip.

“It seems like our commercial interests are not aligned with theirs,” he said.

They were not even allowed to take off from the grass strip to fly to their new base at Compton Abbas in Dorset.

Instead they had to spend Saturday taking the first of their three aircraft to bits and transporting it by trailer.

Mr Proost, 61, said: “I was lost for words when the managing director Grenville Hodge said we wouldn’t be allowed to stay.

“We’ve been perfect tenants for all those years. I think the decision was badly advised. Nobody can see what’s being lost.”

Flying with disabled pupils is “a very strong emotional bonding experience,” he explained.

“It basically changes their lives. But you learn from them as much as they learn from you.”

The business has two strands, one offering microlight experience flights and training for pilots and instructors, and the other working with charities such as Flying Scholarships for Disabled People and the Aviation for Paraplegics and Tetraplegics Trust, which has recently closed.

The duo used to be based in the listed Hangar Three.

But that became so dilapidated that they were instead offered space by the neighbouring Boscombe Down Aviation Collection.

“If you think of it, a disabled flying school located in an aviation museum, on a historic airfield, is absolutely unique,” said Mr Proost. “We are losing the opportunity of a lifetime. All we needed was the grass strip.”

He is appreciative of the welcome Compton Abbas has given them.

“They made special arrangements to have us. They can see the value of what’s being done, and have been willing to adapt their facilities.”

He adds that he has not given up hope of a change of heart at Old Sarum, although his attempts to contact its owner Matthew Chance Hudson have been unsuccessful so far.

Old Sarum Airfield’s management and directors have been contacted for comment.