Mike Lomberg, a South African-born paraplegic pilot, is embarking on a flight around the world to spread the message of inclusion.
Mike Lomberg grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. After finishing school, he joined the South African Air Force to train as a pilot. He received his military wings in 1978 on Aeromacchi MB326 jet aircraft.
He proceeded to have a full career in the airforce before tragedy struck. In 1990 Mike sustained a spinal cord injury as a passenger in a motor vehicle accident. He was left paralysed.
After some time, he returned to work and took on a new role in his company.
“As a paraplegic, I was unable to continue my test flying activities as a pilot, but remained with Denel Aerospace until 1999 in various project management roles on the helicopter program, and finally as the Chief of Flight Test for the company”
After a few years, Mike moved to Cape Town and joined the team that designed and built the 10m SALT Telescope (Southern African Large Telescope). The telescope is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. After saving up, he bought himself a Glasair Sportsman aircraft, in which a friend installed hand controls.
“This allowed me to regain my civilian flying licences and to once again enjoy my first love: flying aeroplanes. My flying home is now the Morningstar Flying Club which is based at Morningstar Airfield just north of Cape Town. It is home to more than 300 members and 200 aircraft.”
It was then that he made a friend, who was advocating for people with disabilities to fly, that connected him with Handiflight.
“The opportunity to participate as a pilot in the Handiflight RTW project is a way in which I hope to use my love for aviation, and the opportunities it has given me, to inspire other people to break down the barriers firstly in their own minds, and then in the minds of those around them about what is possible if one allows oneself to embrace the seemingly impossible.”
“Sometimes all it takes is a changed way of looking at things, or a small adaptation, or a functional aid and suddenly the potential and passion of an individual, seemingly severely limited by one or other disability, can be given wings and fly.”
Mike says it will be a tremendous privilege to be able to support and communicate the message of Humanity and Inclusion
“When we focus on our common humanity and provide pathways to inclusion, then we provide the will and the space for everyone to follow their own dreams and imagine a fuller life for themselves and those around them.”
The pilots will stop in 40 countries with about 150 different stopovers. They will fly over 80 000 kilometres and spend about 400 hours flying in the small aircraft. Hand controls will be fitted into light sports aircraft to allow them to be flown without the use of legs. In addition, auxiliary fuel tanks will be fitted in the wings and in the cockpit for the longer flights.
You can follow Mike and his fellow team o their journey on their Facebook page.