Aviator arrives on a wing and a chair
A 44-YEAR-OLD Melbourne man who has only limited arm function and cannot move from the armpits down, successfully landed his light aircraft at Flametree's Whitsunday Airport on Tuesday afternoon.
Dave Jacka aims to be the first person with quadriplegia to fly solo around Australia with his charity 'On a Wing and a Chair', in an effort to raise expectations about what people with disabilities can do.
In 1988, at just 19 years old, Mr Jacka was thrown head-first from his motorbike into a tree, shattering his fifth vertebrae and leaving him with high-level quadriplegia.
"When I had my accident I had to re-learn how to feed myself, pick things up, brush my teeth - all the simple things," Mr Jacka said.
"And when you achieve a small goal, the next goal gets bigger."
Learning to fly became one of Mr Jacka's biggest goals, but his greatest hurdle was finding instructors who would take him on.
"A lot of people wouldn't give me a go. With a disability, people didn't think I could do it, so that's how a Wing and a Chair started - I wanted to change people's attitudes," he said.
In 2006 Mr Jacka received his pilot's certificate and in 2008 he bought a Jabiru J230 and designed its interior functions to suit his own particular needs. He controls the rudder with his left hand, steers with his right and manages the throttle by sucking and blowing into a tube.
On April 29, Mr Jacka and his support crew including four pilots and two additional planes, departed Tooradin, Victoria, for their round-Australia awareness-raising trip. On Tuesday, which was day nine of the mission, Mr Jacka completed the leg from Caboolture to the Whitsundays with a refuelling stop in Gladstone.
He was welcomed to the region by members of the Whitsunday Aero Club who said the trip was a great inspiration for able-bodied people as well. To follow Mr Jacka's progress visit http://www.onawingandachair.org.au.