Quadriplegia can't keep Dave from epic flight

Dave Jacka (left) and support pilot Gordon McCaw. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI
Dave Jacka (left) and support pilot Gordon McCaw. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Dave Jacka had always wanted to fly, but when a motorbike accident left him in a wheelchair, he thought the dream was gone.

But 24 years later, he is defying his disability and attempting to be the first person with quadriplegia to fly solo around Australia.

When Mr Jacka landed at Albion Park Airport yesterday afternoon, he was four days into a 4½-week odyssey that will take him 16,000 kilometres around the Australian coastline.

For Mr Jacka, the journey is a chance to change attitudes he once held himself about people with disabilities.

"Most people get this picture in their mind that you're basically a head in a wheelchair, and that you can't do anything," he said.

"I'm trying to open up people's minds to what people with disabilities can do."

Mr Jacka has no finger function, limited arm function, no movement from his armpits down, and can't regulate his body temperature.

Trained in engineering, he flies his modified Jabiru J230 aircraft using special self-designed controls.

Sucking and blowing into a plastic tube, enlarged switches, and a lever to control the rudder with built-in support for his hands are just some of the modifications he has made.

While he admits the gruelling schedule and long days are already making the voyage a "massive personal challenge", Mr Jacka doesn't see his disability as a unique challenge in itself.

"We all have things in life that challenge us."


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