A PILOT who broke his back in a motorbike accident has set off on a record-breaking solo flight to Australia.
Dave Sykes was given just a 30 per cent chance of survival when he was hit by a car in 1993.
He suffered two punctured lungs and broke his left femur, all his ribs and his back, losing the use of both his legs.
But last Thursday, the daredevil from Earlsheaton began an epic microlight journey from York to Sydney.
Mr Sykes, 43, will brave scorching temperatures and inhospitable terrain to complete the 11,600 nautical mile flight in his ‘flying motorbike’ which has been specially adapted for his disability.
If he succeeds, Mr Sykes will be the first person ever to fly the massive distance in a microlight – and he hopes to raise cash for Yorkshire Air Ambulance in the process.
“I wanted to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Amy Johnson’s achievement of being the first woman to fly solo to Australia in 1930 which was an amazing achievement, and this has always been an inspiration to me,” Mr Sykes said.
“There is a long sea crossing from Rhodes to Cyprus and from there to Egypt, which are both a couple of hundred miles, then across the Timor Sea to Australia, which is 300 miles.
“It has not been attempted by anyone wheelchair-bound before. I am aiming to set a record for the furthest and longest flight by a disabled pilot.”
The journey is expected to take six to eight weeks and will take Mr Sykes over 18 countries.
“The main problems are long periods in a cockpit seven to eight hours and the heat,” he said. “The temperatures will have a big effect on both myself and the microlight, we will both be needing lots of water to cool down.
“It is going to be a huge challenge.”
As the Reporter went to press, Mr Sykes was flying over Southern Italy.
Click on the link to the right of the story to track Mr Sykes’ progress.