Professor Ian Whitmore

When anatomy professor and flying instructor, Ian Whitmore, was involved in a mid air collision and suffered multiple injuries he thought his flying days might be over. For the 68-year-old doctor and professor of anatomy at Stanford University, California, flying is his passion. Professor Whitmore is also a helicopter flight instructor, who spends six months each year in California and summers back home in England. The accident happened at Wycombe Air Park in 1989. He was piloting a Cessna 182 single-engine light airplane, following behind another light aircraft. Both were coming in to land on the runway when the plane in front, containing a student and instructor, failed to clear the runway quickly enough, causing the planes to touch in mid air. It happened at a height of around 50 feet, and sent the two airplanes crashing to the ground. “We were very lucky that all four of us survived,” said Professor Whitmore. He fractured his left thighbone, shinbone, calf bone, six ribs and a finger. He also fractured and dislocated his right ankle. Having spent 12 weeks in hospital, it took a year before the Professor was able get back to a relatively normal life, although with reduced movement. He was left with 1.5 inches of shortening in his left leg and had to wear a shoe built up by that amount. Twelve years later, with the onset of arthritis, his ankle became increasingly painful. “The pain became unmanageable without strong painkillers”, said Professor Whitmore. “It was becoming impossible to do my job and to fly – the two things that drive my life.” After considerable research, both in the USA and UK, he chose to have his ankle replacement surgery done in the UK by Mr Nick Harris, consultant foot and ankle surgeon. In May 2012, Professor Whitmore underwent surgery at Spire Leeds Hospital. The procedure, known as Rebalance Total Ankle Replacement (Biomet UK) is one of the newest replacements available. “Within a few days of the operation the pain had gone,” said Professor Whitmore. It’s now 18 months since the operation, “I have good mobility in my ankle, I can fly and drive, and stand for long periods without any problems” he said.