HE’S done it! Almost four months after paraplegic microlight pilot Dave Sykes left York on a record-breaking solo flight across the globe he has finally landed in Sydney.
Since taking off from Rufforth on April 28 in a bid to fly more than 11,600 miles to raise money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, he has battled through dust storms, thunder and lightning, baking heat and torrential rain while flying over deserts, tropical jungle and the open seas.
Fellow members of York Flying Club at Rufforth Airfield have hailed the achievements of Dave, who lost the use of his legs after a motorcycle accident in 1993.
The club’s chief flying instructor John Teesdale said: “It’s a wonderful achievement.”
“He must be feeling so elated. It would be a fantastic achievement for anybody, but it’s especially so for someone who is disabled.”
Fellow member Mike Poole said he stayed up until 4am yesterday to follow Dave’s progress on a satellite tracker and listen in to Air Traffic Control.
“I just caught the Sydney Bankstown controller saying: ‘Congratulations wheely Dave,’ and telling him to follow the vehicle with the flashing light, so I knew that he was safely down,” he said.
The flight, intended to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Amy Johnson’s achievement of being the first woman to fly solo to Australia in 1930, was originally expected to take between six and eight weeks. But Dave, 43, from near Dewsbury, suffered a number of hitches and delays.
He thought his “time was up” when a sandstorm reduced his visibility to zero while flying from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, and, when he landed in Pakistan, the wind took him off into a ditch and 20 airport staff had to rescue him.
In Burma, he flew through rain so heavy that his pod also started filling up with water and he had to take off his visor so he could see.
In Timor Kupang, a wheel was ripped off his craft and his foot was trapped when violent winds blew him off a runway.
Dave has been shortlisted for Charity Fundraiser Of The Year in The Press Community Pride Awards 2011.
Well done to Dave
CONGRATULATIONS also go to paraplegic microlight pilot Dave Sykes, who four months ago left York on a charity flight to Australia to raise money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Now, after battling through many ordeals, including sandstorms and torrential rain, Dave has finally touched down in Sydney.
At one stage Dave even broke his wrist, but he carried on regardless, showing the spirit that has won him a place on the shortlist for Charity Fundraiser Of The Year in The Press Community Pride Awards 2011.
His mates are raising a glass to his success at Rufforth airfield tonight.
Quite right too.