On a Wing and a Chair

LOW clouds and fog forced the world's first quadriplegic flying solo around Australia to make a pit stop in Kingston.

Dave Jacka and his team landed in Kingston around 10am on June 4 and waited patiently on the airstrip for the fog to lift.

When it looked like the weather wouldn't improve Kingston local and flyer Brian Harris came to the rescue and let the group find refuge in the Kingston flying clubrooms.

The team was forced to spend the night in Kingston before continuing on.

Dave and his team spent 36 days flying the coastline of Australia - finishing last Wednesday - with one mission.

That was to raise the public's expectations of what people with disabilities can achieve.

"Just to inspire anyone to just get out and reach their goals," Dave said.

"It's been hard work but it's been great meeting people.

"The Burketown school kids came out to the airfield which was great and a highlight of the trip."

Dave was left a quadriplegic after a motorbike accident in 1988.

"I came off my bike and was thrown head first into a tree where I shattered the fifth vertebrae in my neck," Dave said.

"So that has left me with high level quadriplegia.

"I have no finger function at all, I can move my wrists, but can't move from my armpits down, I have biceps but no triceps and I can't equal out my body temperature."

Despite these limitations Dave has exceeded many expectations and on Wednesday completed his month-and-a-bit long flight around Australia when he landed home in Tooradin, Victoria.

Dave has been in a wheelchair for 25 years and it wasn't until after his accident that he learnt how to fly.

"Just through general moments, challenges in my life; whether it is trying to get a job or learning to fly - it wasn't always my disability that was a problem it was people's attitudes about what they thought I could do," Dave said.

"I couldn't find anyone to teach me to fly, then I found one instructor who was the only person willing to give me a go.

"Just needed one person with an open mind."

Dave has made modifications and adaptations to his plane so he can fly it.

He operates the plane by levers that he can slot his arms into to control the movement of the plane, he uses the brake by flicking a large black toggle with his hand and he sucks and blows through a plastic tube to control the speed of the plane.

"Being a quadriplegic I can't fly a plane by myself, so I have designed my own adaptations that have allowed me to fly on my own," Dave said.

Dave was able to get a licence for his recreational aircraft because he has a driver's licence.

Other changes making it easier for Dave to fly include enlarging and moving some of the switches and building in a footplate to hold his feet in position.

In 2010 Dave's charity On a Wing and a Chair was formed.

On a Wing and a Chair is a not for profit, volunteer driven organisation that aims to challenge the limits of disability and raise expectations of what people with a disability can achieve through supporting inspirational feats of human endeavour.

Dave says people are only limited by what they think they can do.

For more information on Dave's journey, story and charity visit www.onawingandachair.org.au or like them on Facebook.

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