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David Sykes' Epic Flight Completed

David Sykes
Dave Sykes at the end of his trip in Wallsend, Newcastle, Australia. Photo courtesy William Olive.

British paraplegic pilot Dave Sykes has completed an 11,714-nautical-mile solo flight from York, England, to Sydney, Australia, in an open-cockpit, weight-shift-control P&M Aviation Quik. The trip, which began April 28, took four months and crossed over more than 18 countries. Dave doesn’t have the use of his legs, so all takeoffs and landings were flown with one hand while the other hand was used to control a modified ground steering lever.

Dave had been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in 1993, but he recovered and took up flying in 2000. This trip took two years of planning. An auxiliary fuel tank gave him an endurance of 8 hours, necessary for water crossings of nearly 300 miles. Along the way he flew over deserts and jungles and experienced everything from sandstorms to a close lightning strike that blew the fuses on his instruments.

In an interview, he said he was inspired by another UK pilot who flew around the world in a trike. Dave couldn’t afford to fly all the way around the world, so he decided to fly to Australia instead. His flight set a record for the first paraplegic pilot to make the trip. Learn more at Solo Flight Global and read his daily blog postings for details of the amazing adventure.

The epic flight of this 43-year-old pilot, who disassembles his wheelchair and packs it onto his trike before each takeoff, caught the imagination of spectators and media all along the route. Network Ten in Australia produced a video that tells the story of Dave’s arrival in Australia quite well. Watch it here.

An Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) reporter described the state-of-the-art 100-hp microlight as “a device which is nothing more than a garden chair with a piece of sail cloth for wings,” but ABC’s video Microlight completes epic journey includes some great in-flight footage that shows some of what he experienced along the route.

Dave returned home to England on a commercial passenger jet while the P&M Quik was shipped via sea freight.

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