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No Fear of Flying

Categories: Blind or Visually Impaired

Barry Hyde A lifelong lover of flying and aviation, Barry Hulon Hyde is living proof that dreams can stay airborne even after disaster strikes. “Without RFB&D," he says, "I could not have become the first blind student to graduate from the world’s largest flight school!”

In June, 1998, while flying as a passenger in a small plane just outside Roanoke, Virginia, Hyde was nearly killed in a crash resulting from preflight and pilot error. After paramedics arrived and airlifted him to a hospital, he was pronounced dead on arrival before being resuscitated and placed on life support. Hyde’s head injuries were so debilitating that he had to learn to walk again – as a blind person. To this day, his senses of taste and smell have never returned. 

photo with a service dog

Remarkably, while spending the next several years in intensive rehabilitation, Hyde found that his passion for aviation was stronger than ever. He launched into an educational path that speeded his recovery and healed his spirits.   In 2000, he managed to earn certificates as an Advanced Ground Instructor and Instrument Ground instructor – an achievement that hasn’t been duplicated, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Hyde was introduced to RFB&D through the Raleigh School for the Blind. In 2004, he earned a Bachelor’s in history from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, using RFB&D books as well as tape recording his classes for review and study. “I was very fortunate that my ears stayed intact so I could learn audibly,” he says.
In 2007, with RFB&D’s help, Hyde graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a Master’s of Science in aeronautics and a 4.0 GPA – the first and only blind graduate in the institution’s 83-year history. As of this writing, he is several classes and a dissertation away from completing his Doctorate in business administration with a specialization in aviation safety – and that’s not all.
In 2009, Hyde took a position with Daniel Webster College (an aviation school in New Hampshire) as an adjunct professor teaching an online safety and security class. And on March 1 of this year, he started a new job in Washington DC with the Federal Aviation Administration. Within a few weeks into the job, he was astonished to be greeted in person by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a member of President Obama’s cabinet.
After bucking unbelievable odds, Hyde is a man on a mission. “I want to be in a position to prevent what I went through from happening to other pilots,” he says.  He credits the many institutions that helped him, his fiancée Nancy Riedel, and his long-time guide dog, Lincoln (recently retired but still living with him) as enormously influential. RFB&D is honored to have played a part in his inspired flight path.