Gulf News

Pi­lots in wheel­chairs make his­tory

DUO TOUCH DOWN IN UAE AS PART OF GLOBAL MIS­SION TO RAISE AWARE­NESS OF DIS­ABIL­ITY

- BY SHARMILA DHAL Chief Re­porter Accidents · United Arab Emirates · Dubai · Ash Sharqiyah Province · Saudi Arabia · Saudi Arabia national football team · Geneva · Dubai · Lions Clubs International · Middle East · Asia · Dubai World

Two para­plegic pi­lots in wheel­chairs have cre­ated his­tory in UAE airspace by land­ing at Dubai World Cen­tral as part of a global Han­di­flight mis­sion to raise aware­ness about dis­abil­ity.

Speak­ing to Gulf News, which was given ex­clu­sive ac­cess to the air­side to wit­ness the touch­down, the pi­lots — Mike Lomberg and Guil­laume Feral — said Dubai was their sixth stopover in a 40-coun­try tour cov­er­ing 80,000 kilo­me­tres to raise funds for Hu­man­ity & In­clu­sion, an in­ter­na­tional NGO that is out to com­bat prej­u­dice and ex­clu­sion.

The pi­lots, who manned two aero­planes, were fol­lowed by a two-mem­ber backup team in a third plane when they ar­rived from Al Ahsa in Saudi Ara­bia at 3.55pm on Tues­day.

“There’s noth­ing spe­cial about fly­ing with dis­abil­ity,” said a mat­ter-of-fact Feral, who lost the use of his lower limbs fol­low­ing a spinal cord in­jury he suf­fered dur­ing a plane crash in 1985.

“The only dif­fer­ence,” the French pilot said, “is to re­place the move­ment of the feet with ■ that of the hands. We use a spe­cial hand-con­trol de­vice, but ev­ery­thing else re­mains the same — like any other pilot, we must fly with con­cen­tra­tion, aware­ness of reg­u­la­tions and pre­cise nav­i­ga­tion.”

South African Lomberg, a for­mer mil­i­tary en­gi­neer­ing pilot who be­came a para­plegic af­ter a mo­tor ve­hi­cle crash in 1990, said he re­sumed fly­ing in 2012 af­ter a friend coaxed him into it.

“It wasn’t a big deal, be­cause I knew how to fly. With time, I just be­came in­stinc­tive in us­ing the hand con­trols.”

He said the Ger­man flat de­sign CTLS light sport planes that he and Feral fly weigh a max­i­mum of 600 kilo­grams and are pow­ered by a 100HP en­gine. “The planes are small ■ and light­weight and thus, more eas­ily af­fected by weather. So we need to fac­tor that when we are fly­ing. They have two seats — the pilot sits in one and uses the sec­ond to keep a lifeboat and other safety equip­ment.”

The sky is no limit

He said he joined the Han­di­flight global net­work of dis­abled avi­a­tors for a rea­son. “I wanted to break down bar­ri­ers and help peo­ple find path­ways for in­clu­sion. The dis­abled can dream too and they de­serve to be given wings.”

Asked if the sky is the limit for peo­ple of de­ter­mi­na­tion like him, he said: “Even the sky is no limit.”

Daniel Ram­seier of the Han­di­flight backup team, said: “The pi­lots be­gan their 80,000km tour in Geneva on Novem­ber 18. By the end of the 40-coun­try tour, they will help raise $80,000 (Dh293,800) for Hu­man­ity & In­clu­sion.”

Eisa Al Shamsi, vice-pres­i­dent of ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tions, Dubai Air­ports, said: “This trip proves noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble for any­one. We were happy to fa­cil­i­tate the pi­lots to land in Dubai. We at Dubai Air­ports fully sup­port peo­ple of de­ter­mi­na­tion, be it among our staff or our pas­sen­gers.”

The pi­lots are be­ing hosted by Lions In­ter­na­tional in Dubai.

Au­gusto Di Pi­etro of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Lions Club Mid­dle East, said: “The team is on a five-day stopover in Dubai and is also at­tend­ing Lions Club In­ter­na­tional’s Con­sti­tu­tional Area Fo­rum which has brought to­gether 3,000 del­e­gates from Africa, the Mid­dle East and Asia.”

Egon Steiner, past dis­trict gover­nor, Lions In­ter­na­tional said: “Feral and Lomberg are not pi­lots, they are avi­a­tors who are driven by a pas­sion for fly­ing in the face of sev­eral chal­lenges.” ■

will be cov­ered by the two pi­lots. UAE was their sixth stopover

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 ??  ?? Pi­lots Mike Lomberg (left) and Guil­laume Feral cel­e­brate their ar­rival from Saudi Ara­bia, at Dubai World Cen­tral on Tues­day.
Pi­lots Mike Lomberg (left) and Guil­laume Feral cel­e­brate their ar­rival from Saudi Ara­bia, at Dubai World Cen­tral on Tues­day.
 ?? Viren­dra Sak­lani/Gulf News ?? Stand­ing from left: Au­gusto Di Pi­etro, Daniel Ram­seier and Egon Steiner, with Lomberg (left) and Guil­laume Feral.
Viren­dra Sak­lani/Gulf News Stand­ing from left: Au­gusto Di Pi­etro, Daniel Ram­seier and Egon Steiner, with Lomberg (left) and Guil­laume Feral.
 ?? Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News ?? Eisa Al Shamsi
Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Eisa Al Shamsi

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