On a wing and a chair

Kate Giles
Summary 
Dave Jacka always wanted to fly. But after a motorbike accident he went from being a 100% able bodied person to being left with only 6% of his physical function. Dave wanted to be more independent. He practiced doing things for himself. With his give it a go attitude, Dave became the first person with quadriplegia to fly solo in a powered hand glider. His goal is to showcase what people with disabilities can achieve. Dave's aim is now to be the first person with quadriplegia to fly solo around Australia. This is his story.
Posted by: 
Kate Giles on 25/02/2013
Dave Jacka sitting in a wheelchair under the wing of his aircraft
dave_jacka

Dave Jacka is aiming to be the first person with quadriplegia to fly solo around Australia

Achieving the extraordinary

Early next month, the skies over Geelong will begin to rumble as the Australian International Airshow takes off. On display with some of the world's best aircraft will be a modified Jabiru J230. This aircraft belongs to Victorian flight enthusiast, Dave Jacka. In an attempt to showcase what people with disabilities can achieve, Dave's aim is to become the first person with quadriplegia to fly solo around Australia.

Dave's journey

Dave's expedition begins in April, but the journey has been a long time in the making.

I've always wanted to fly, says Dave. Even as a kid, it was my dream to someday be a pilot.

Motorbike Accident

That was back before an accident dramatically changed Dave's life. Four days before his 20th birthday, he came off his motorbike, breaking his 5th cervical vertebrae. The accident left him unable to move any part of his body from the armpits down, limiting his arm function and preventing him from moving his fingers. Adding to these challenges, Dave has also lost the ability to regulate his body temperature.

Before the accident I was carpenter. I was a very outdoor sort of a person and loved surfing, skiing and camping. I went from being a 100% able bodied person to being left with only 6% of my physical function. You couldn't imagine what your life was going to be like. And the worst part is not having any hope. I thought my life was over.

Being More Independent

Dave's desire to be more independent motivated him to try things he thought would be impossible. His first goal was to be able to get from his wheelchair to the bed, and from the bed to his wheelchair, unassisted.

It took two years of practice. Achieving this goal changed my life. It gave me so much more independence, but most importantly it made me realise that I was only limited by what I thought I could do, says Dave.

Not only can Dave now get himself and his wheelchair in and out of the car, he can also drive the vehicle.

Give It A Go Attitude

Dave believes that attitude plays a large part in what you can and can't do, saying, If there's a maybe there, give it a go.

Joining the Wheelchair Rugby team was an important part of Dave's early wheelchair bound life. Learning from others opened up his mind to further possibilities.

He has since studied engineering and project management and has worked full-time for many years.

Dave says, Achieving goals gives you the motivation to achieve bigger and bigger things.

And so, Dave's dream of being able to fly began to resurface.

Solution to Every Problem

Dave strongly believes there's a solution to every problem, saying, It's all about finding it.

With this in mind, he set about finding someone to teach him how to fly, and in 2006 Dave became the first person with quadriplegia to fly a powered hang glider solo.

On A Wing And A Chair

Following this, the Jabiru J230 was built, including modifications that Dave himself designed. Then began the mission of showcasing what people with disabilities can achieve, by aiming to be the first person with quadriplegia to fly solo around Australia. The venture, On a Wing and a Chair was born.

And against all odds, a small boy's dream of flying has become a magnificent reality.

DiVine would like to wish Dave and his team all the best for the coming journey!
 

Further Information:

You can meet Dave, his modified Jabiru and support crew at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon (Geelong) over the first weekend of March: 1st, 2nd & 3rd.

 

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