A BRAVE soldier is learning to fly at a north Hampshire airfield – just a year after he lost part of a leg in a roadside blast in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Matthew Wilson, of 2nd Battalion The Rifles, lost his left leg below the knee after he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while on a foot patrol in Sangin last year.

After 12 months of rehabilitation at the Headley Court Hospital in Surrey, the 24-year-old, from Hereford, is now learning to fly a light aircraft at Lasham Airfield, near Basingstoke, after winning a scholarship.

The course, taught by instructors for the Lasham-based charity Aerobility, has seen the serving soldier spend the last three weeks at the airfield.

He had his first solo flight in a Piper Warrior aircraft last Saturday and hopes to get enough experience to gain his national pilot’s licence.

Lance Cpl Wilson told The Gazette: “It’s exhilarating to be honest. It takes you out of your norm, puts you in a completely different environment, and you are in complete control of where you are going.”

The flying feat marks a remarkable turnaround for the serving soldier.

He recalled that he was fully conscious in the seconds after he stepped on the Taliban-laid booby trap.

“There was a rather loud bang,” he said. “I stepped on the IED, did a backflip, had a look down and realised what had happened.”

Lance Cpl Wilson was taken to the trauma hospital at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, where his left leg was amputated from the knee down. A further operation carried out at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham managed to save his left forearm, which also took some of the force of the blast.

While recovering at Headley Court Hospital, he spotted a Flying Scholarship for the Disabled offer, which is run in conjunction with national charities Help for Heroes, Battle Back and Aerobility.

Lance Cpl Wilson was able to fulfil a life-long ambition when he was selected for the scholarship after four days of aptitude tests at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

He said that if he could not return to the frontline in Afghanistan, he would seriously look into becoming a commercial pilot.

Mike Miller-Smith – the chairman of Aerobility, which until recently used to be known as the British Disabled Flying Association and aims to get disabled and profoundly-ill adults and children up in the air – said: “Matt came to us when he was still coming to terms with his injury, so having this new experience and something positive is great.

“There’s no reason why he can’t be a commercial pilot in the future and we will support him in that.”