Paolo Pocobelli

Paolo-portraitwas born in Italy almost 48 years ago. Literally breast fed on skydiving airfields I started to fall in love with aviation in my early childhood. During the years at high school gained my first wings, becoming a Private Pilot in 1991. In 1993 started to jump as a skydiver and a skydiving videoman at the weekends. It was during a sunny June Sunday in 1994 that had a skydiving accident. call it a bad day in the office. Definitely was a bad day, since broke two vertebrae and a femur. The femur’s fracture was annoying, but the vertebrae definitely changed mymood. At least for awhile. suffered a spinal cord injury that made me paraplegic.

was still in a German hospital following my rehabilitation process when a friend of mine brought me an Italian magazine with an article about a group of Italian paraplegic sport pilots who had started to fly ultralights. left the German hospital in January 1995 and on February the 10th of the same year I was in a sport plane, soaring again. really couldnt stay away from the sky.

With my Private Pilot License already gained in 1991 and about 300 hours of general aviation time built in the USA to get ready for my Commercial License, it didnt take long for me to started thinking about my old passion for Aviation and with the help of a sponsor managed to buy an ultralight. I started flying the Italian airshows with a basic show to promote flight for disabled people.

In 1997 I did a trip to Les Mureaux airfield, close to Paris, to visit the Aéro-Club Paul-Louis Weiller where I met Claude Maltese, together with other members of the Aero-Club and I had the chance to fly on a General Aviation Airplane equipped with hand controls for the first time. During that day in Les Mureaux I found out that Guillaume Feral was living in my home town, Milan. We met a few days later and he told me about his experiences and the way they managed to relate with the French Civil Aviation Authorities.

That meeting was life changing, at least for me. At that time I used to be employed in an Italian bank. It was a good way to pay my bills but I hated it. If I couldn’t fly professionally, I didn’t want to fly at all, because even with my job at the bank I couldn’t afford it. In 2001 I realized that I needed to change my life. I quit my job at the bank and I moved to Egypt where I started working as a underwater videoman. If it wasn’t the sky, it had to be the sea to let me live the lifestyle that I was forced to leave on the day of my accident. At least I had hope, but my passion for flying came out again and this time in a strong and unstoppable way.

In 2005 I left Sharm el Sheikh to move to Southern California where a British-owned flying school was offering flying courses for paraplegics. As soon as I arrived I explained to the Head of Training that I wanted to become a professional pilot. I started my training in San Diego to build up my new life again. I attended my flying courses from scratch. took my FAA Private Pilot License, Instrument Rating, Multi-Engine Rating and Commercial Pilot License. After this decided to become a professional instructor and completed my Certified Flight Instructor and Instrument Instructor ratings in 2006. I worked in the USA until summer 2009 and built a few thousand hours teaching Student Pilots from the beginning to Airline Transport Pilot License.

After moving back to Europe I flew and worked for a few months in England, France and finally, in 2012 I came back to Italy. I moved to Verona where I started my training to convert my licenses and fly in my own country. At the present time I am working as Chief Flight Instructor in Verona. I have both EASA and FAA professional licenses and I lately became a Class Rating Examiner.

In these 24 years since my accident I have travelled a lot, studied a lot, worked a lot and flown a lot, but none of this would ever have been possible without Inspiration. The Inspiration I had from the people I met on my way. I was Inspired by Claude and Guillaume, I was Inspired by the people I met in Egypt and the way they managed to overcome difficulties, despite their lack of resources, I was inspired by Mike Smith, an American pilot and real pioneer of Aviation for the disabled, I was Inspired by the satisfaction of my students. Inspiration is the best gift a person can receive. It is often Inspiration that givehope to people. Hope to be able to change theirlife or achieve something considered impossible.

This was the main reason for me to accept with great enthusiasm the proposal by Daniel Ramseier to become a member of the Handiflight RTW project and bring a message of hope and inclusion. A message not only to people whose life was badly challenged. An Inspiration to Governments and Organizations who could be Inspired by Handiflight RTW and start to change their attitude towards people with disabilities.

Total flying time: 4200 hrs