Eric Dabas

I am 52 years old and I was born in Saint Raphael in the Var on the Côte d’Azur in France. I spent all my childhood at the seaside with my two brothers and my sister. I am the youngest in the family. The way my parents met was quite romantic. She was an air hostess and he a pilot with Air Algeria on DC3s and DC4s and they got to know each other when one of their DC3s broke down in the desert.

To my astonishment I learned that I am the third generation of pilots in my family. My father’s uncle, born in 1900, was in the Army Air Force. He died during an air display in 1925. My father was also in the air force. In 1947 he served in Indochina (flying the King Cobra, P47, Spitfire, Bearcat etc. …) Later he went on to fly the medical evacuation C97, the Transall and other types.

Before my motorcycle accident in November 1983 I was training for a professional qualification as a heavy vehicle driver. I have never been very interested in studying, much to my regret. Aviation was at that time inaccessible for me even as a non-disabled person, so when I found myself in a wheelchair, I gave this option no more thought. Instead, I went back to school, passed an exam equivalent to the literary Baccalaureat, and then did five years of piano, drawing, and the first year of a Higher Education Diploma in Plastic Arts.

Aviation came into my life in 2002 during an air show in Cuers. The President of the Castel Mauboussin Association, Luc Adrien, was at that time offering the opportunity to disabled people to reintegrate in the field of aviation by obtaining a private pilot’s licence for airplanes (PPL A).

From that date on, a series of events was triggered. I obtained my PPL in 2003, and did the first of my 8 seasons of wildfire monitoring in Cahors. In 2004, I went to Air Caraïbes for a week to study how feasible it was for a person with restricted mobility (PRM) to work in an airline environment. In 2006, I obtained my CPL. I worked at Atlantic Air Lift in Nantes as a transit handling agent. In 2008, I was hired by Air Marine, a gas and oil pipeline monitoring company, as a professional pilot flying the Cessna C177 RG. I did 300 hours of low-level monitoring, flying at 500 ft above ground level.

In 2010, I went on to get my glider pilot’s license at Vinon-sur-Verdon, as well as a rating for glider-towing. In June 2011, I did a 3-day sea survival training course (C100) with the customs authority in Martigues.

Since 2012 I have been working for the French Ministry of Defense as a System Operator Instructor on the simulator for the Dauphin/Panther and the NH90 Navy helicopters. In 2013, I qualified as a flight instructor on the Cessna C177RG.

My most recent fun flying was on the 2018 Latécoère Rally, where I flew an adapted PA28 with another disabled pilot (so the entire crew was disabled).

The Handiflight Around the World project is a magnificent idea. Linked to Humanity & Inclusion (Handicap International) it 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 realize their dreams. I have often found in my own experience that non-disabled people can be embarrassed or even afraid of my disability when they first meet me. This fear disappears completely once we have started talking and making jokes. This much-needed communication, once it takes place all around the world, will I hope bridge the gap between the worlds of disabled and non-disabled people, bringing about a better understanding and a real change of viewpoint. Being offered a second chance to make the most of one’s talents in life is the only thing that really helps people to regain their dignity and inner peace, and will be beneficial to everyone. This project brings together all this longing for inclusion, and this is why I will be very honored and happy to make a modest contribution to this adventure by sharing my passion and my experience.

Total flight hours: 920