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Rebuilt pilot aims for the skies

PUBLISHED: 15:23 11 August 2001 | UPDATED: 15:16 03 March 2010

A Suffolk business man who lost half of his face and the use of both his feet in a horrific air accident in South Africa has spoken of his brave battle to come to terms with his injuries.

A Suffolk business man who lost half of his face and the use of both his feet in a horrific air accident in South Africa has spoken of his brave battle to come to terms with his injuries.

Doctors said flying ace Andrew Harding was just ten minutes away from death when he was hauled from the twisted wreckage of his aircraft after a mid air stunt went terribly wrong.

Nearly six months after the accident the father-of-two, who was a passenger in the two seater by-plane at the time, can stand but can not walk – yet he longs to take to the skies once again.

"I often used to go up on a day like today when the sky is filled with these beautiful puffy white clouds and play around for ten minutes," said Mr Harding, 47, of Milden, near Hadleigh.

"I really believe life is fantastic. There are so many things out there if you just go out and grab them. Of course, I miss flying now but I will be back up there soon."

As the front seat passenger he took the full force of the impact when the Pitts Special aerobatic aircraft failed to recover from a mid air spin manoeuvre and smashed into the sun baked earth at 120mph.

Most of his right foot and half of his face were torn off when the craft's undercarriage ripped through the bottom of the plane.

He shattered his back in three places, damaged internal organs and ruptured spinal nerves so severely that tendons in his left foot will have to be surgically rebuilt.

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