Branson Decides to Take the Plunge

12th Aug 2003

Sir Richard Branson has confirmed that he will be an entrant in the International Bognor Birdman taking place on 31 August this year on Bognor Pier. Virgin Atlantic is sponsoring the annual event as part of a series of initiatives for 2003 to commemorate 100 years of flight. 

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic said:

“I have done many crazy things over the years but attempting flight from Bognor Pier is one of the biggest challenges! The Bognor Birdman is now an internationally recognised event with entrants from all over the world. It celebrates our desire to fly as well as our limited ability to do so without power and showcases some of the most unusual ways to take flight.

“This year we’re celebrating the centenary of the Wright Brothers first powered flight and the 150th anniversary of the first ever manned flight in a plane designed by an Englishman, Sir George Cayley. My attempt will pay tribute to Britain’s role in aviation history.”
This famous competition challenges individuals to achieve human powered flight from the end of the pier in Bognor Regis, where competitors aim for the coast of France although they traditionally land in the English Channel. The furthest distance achieved to date stands at 89.2m. There are three categories; Kingfisher for most eccentric attempt, Leonardo for the most unique craft design and Magnificent Flight where competitors attempt to go over 100m.

Richard will be competing in the Kingfisher class along with 13 competitors all raising money for charities and good causes. Richard is aiming to raise in excess of £50,000 in aid of Chestnut Tree House, a new children’s hospice near Arundel.  Chestnut Tree House is the only children’s hospice in Sussex.
Sir Richard Branson commented:
“I have decided to take the plunge (literally!!) because I would love to raise enough money for the creation of a new area for play/art therapy. This will allow for a variety of activities, including music sessions to aid therapy and support at the hospice.”


John Stride, Chairman of the International Bognor Birdman Steering Group at Arun District Council commented:
“We are delighted that Sir Richard Branson has decided to join our competitors all taking up the challenge to attempt human powered flight. We are also pleased that Virgin Atlantic will be supporting this event which increases in popularity every year.  It promises to be one of the best events to date.”

John Ayers, Owner of Bognor Regis Pier commented:

“We are very honoured that Virgin Atlantic has chosen The International Birdman on Bognor Pier to celebrate the 100 years of flight. The participation of Richard Branson will hopefully make this growing event even more popular.”

Virgin Atlantic also has a team of apprentice engineers entering the competition in the Magnificent Flight category aiming to beat the existing record of 89.2m and to scoop the £25,000 prize for achieving a distance over 100m. The apprentices have developed a flying machine made from mylar skin over an aluminium tube frame. One of the apprentices Simon Williams is planning to pilot the aircraft. Richard and Simon have been on special diets and exercise regimes to prepare for the event.
About Chestnut Tree House Childrens Hospice
From November 2003, Chestnut Tree House Childrens Hospice will offer palliative care and support for children/teenagers with a short life expectancy and their families, in whatever way most suits their needs.  The hospice sets out to duplicate the ‘home from home’ environment, providing comfortable living accommodation for children, parents and siblings, offering respite care for the whole family who would cherish the opportunity to rest and refresh and have quality time together.  Chestnut Tree House Childrens Hospice is situated in beautiful countryside east of Arundel, and offers care by fully trained and qualified staff, as well as offering emergency care as and when required. Chestnut Tree House is the only children’s hospice in Sussex.



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