Leeds & West Yorkshire

Paraplegic pilot sets out to North Pole in microlight

Dave Sykes and his microlight
Image caption Dave Sykes is thought to be the first paraplegic pilot to attempt to fly from England to the North Pole in a microlight

A paraplegic microlight pilot has taken off on a solo flight some 5,000 miles (8,050km) to the North Pole.

Dave Sykes will brave temperatures as low as -40C (-40F) as he crosses the Arctic Ocean on his month-long trip.

In 2011, he became the first paraplegic to fly a microlight from England to Australia in a 16,000-mile trip that took him more than three months.

Mr Sykes, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, said: "I've been called bonkers, mad and crazy."

Family and friends gathered earlier as he took to the skies from Rufforth Airfield, near York.

Speaking before his journey, Mr Sykes said he was feeling "extremely nervous".

Image caption Mr Sykes hopes his journey will raise thousands of pounds for Martin House Children's Hospice

"It's actually overwhelming, disappearing into Europe and leaving everyone behind because I'm actually on my own. I've got no ground support or air support, only me."

A member of York Flying Club, the pilot, who is raising money for Martin House Children's Hospice, said he would wear a special heated flying jacket and gloves to avoid frostbite and an adapted helmet to keep out the intense cold.

His journey is expected to cover five countries and will take about four weeks with stop-offs for re-fuelling.

His mother Maureen Sykes said: "I'm worried to death. I won't rest until I see him now; I'll be a bag of nerves all the time.

"I think sometimes he's foolish but nothing will stop him."

In November 1993, a motorbike accident left Mr Sykes with a broken back, clavicle and thigh bone, together with broken ribs and punctured lungs.

Image caption Mr Sykes said flying his microlight was like being on a "motorbike in the sky"

Doctors had said he would remain in hospital for at least two years, but he was discharged in May 1994.

Mr Sykes took up microlighting in 2000 and gained his pilot's licence in 2001.

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