A PARAPLEGIC microlight pilot from Dewsbury has reached Australia after a three-month record-breaking solo journey from England.
Dave Sykes, 43, landed in Truscott, on Australia’s north-west coast – 103 days after he left York on April 28.
Mr Sykes, of Earlsheaton, who broke his back in a motorbike accident in 1993, is the first paraplegic to fly from England to Australia in a microlight.
The 12,000-mile journey has seen the pilot fly over shark-infested waters and hostile terrain, face bad weather and long sea and desert crossings and take in 20 different countries.
The journey has helped raise money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
He is now flying on to Sydney and said: “I started flying 10 years ago and saw a video of a guy who flew around the world and I’ve always wanted to do something similar so I decided on Australia because I couldn’t afford to fly around the world.”
He continued: “It’s been really difficult at times with the bad weather, permissions holding me up and things going wrong with the aircraft.”
Mr Sykes – nicknamed Spokes – was on his way to work on a motorbike when he was hit by a car in November, 1993.
He was given a 30% chance of survival after breaking his back, clavicle, thigh bone and ribs, suffering two punctured lungs and losing the feeling in his right arm. But he was released from hospital in May, 1994, after doctors said he would be there for at least two years.
Mr Sykes took up microlighting in 2000 and got his licence in 2001. He flies a specially-adapted aircraft with modified controls enabling him to fly without the use of his legs. He said: “I wanted to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Amy Johnson’s achievement of being the first woman to fly solo to Australia in 1930 which was an amazing achievement, and this has always been an inspiration to me.
“There was a long sea crossing from Rhodes to Cyprus and from there to Egypt, which are both a couple of hundred miles, then across the Timor Sea to Australia, which was 300 miles.
“It had never been attempted by anyone wheelchair-bound before. I was aiming to set a record for the furthest and longest flight by a disabled pilot.”
After his accident in November, 1993, he spent six months in hospital.
But he was determined not to let his disability beat him and took up parachuting before starting flying lessons.
The route took him through the following countries:
England-France-Italy-Malta-Greece-Cyprus-Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Qatar-Dubai-Oman-Pakistan-India-Bangladesh-Myanmar (Burma)-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore-Indonesia-Australia.
Although microlights conform to stringent British requirements there is no agreed international standard or approval. Therefore special permission had to be sought to fly through each country en-route.