TODAY |

Paraplegic pilots touch down in NZ on global mission to inspire those living with disabilities

An international team paraplegic pilots completing a daring global adventure, have reached New Zealand.

Their mission is to change the perceptions of those living with disabilities.

The Handiflight expedition began in November, in Switzerland, and is set to cover a total of 40 countries.

The pilots involved will collectively travel approximately 80,000km.

"The goal of the project is the inclusion of people who move differently," said Handiflight co-founder Daniel Ramseier

"It's our differences that make us stronger," he said.

Alex Krol, a UK pilot taking part in the New Zealand leg of the tour said they're trying to champion a "positive mind set".

"We're trying to raise the profile of disabilities and trying to make people aware of just what's possible with a positive mind set."

French pilot Eric Dabas is also on board.

He learned to fly after becoming paraplegic and now works for the French Ministry of Defence as a System Operator Instructor on the simulator for the Dauphin/Panther and the NH90 Navy helicopters.

He told 1NEWS when he's in the air he feels free.

"I forget my disability… it's fantastic," he said.

Mr Dabas says the Handiflight project "shows solidarity with the most vulnerable people, opens our eyes to prejudices related to disability and offers hope to people with disabilities, encouraging them to dare to realise their dreams".

The expedition almost came to an end in December, when one of the pilots involved, Michael Lomberg, was killed in a crash in Thailand.

An investigation into what caused the mishap is ongoing.

The Handiflight crew decided to continue their mission, in his honour.

The team head to Tauranga tomorrow, before continuing down the country.

"Each stop we are trying to get out in the community, we’re trying to visit schools and hospitals," Mr Krol said.

"I think in Christchurch we are going to a rehab unit … trying to give them a little glimpse of hope to what the future can be like."

The Handiflight project is hoping to secure more funding, so the world tour can continue until September.

Your playlist will load after this ad

The Handiflight expedition began in Switzerland in November and is set to visit 40 countries. Source: 1 NEWS