A file photo of pilots Mike Lomberg (left) and Guillaume Feral following their arrival at Dubai World Central (DWC). Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Dubai: One of the two paraplegic pilots, who created history in the UAE last month when they landed in Dubai as part of global mission to raise awareness about disability, has died.

Mike Lomberg’s tragic death occurred in Thailand after the plane he was flying crashed on December 30, Augusto Di Pietro of the International Association of Lions Club Middle East, which had hosted the pilots in the UAE, told Gulf News.

“It is with extreme pain and sorrow that I got to know of the unfortunate accident that cost the life of my friend, and the friend of many Lions, Mike Lomberg, one of the two paraplegic aviators of the Handiflight Project,” said Di Pietro.

When Gulf News met Lomberg and fellow paraplegic pilot Guillaume Feral after being given exclusive access to the airside at Dubai World Central where they landed on December 4, the 60-year-old South African had said he had joined the Handiflight mission for a reason.

“I wanted to break down barriers and help people find pathways for inclusion. The disabled can dream too and they deserve to be given wings,” he had said, adding even the sky is no limit for people of determination.

The UAE was his sixth stopover in a 40-country world tour covering 80,000 kilometres to raise funds for Humanity & Inclusion, an international NGO combating prejudice and exclusion.

A former military engineering pilot, Lomberg became a paraplegic after a motor vehicle crash in 1990, but had resumed flying in 2012 when a friend coaxed him into it.

“It wasn’t a big deal because I knew how to fly. With time I just became instinctive in using the hand controls,” he had said, noting that the German flat design CTLS light sports plane he flew weighed around 600 kilograms and was powered by a 100HP engine.

“The planes are small and lightweight and thus, more easily affected by weather. So we need to factor that when we are flying. They have two seats – the pilot sits on one and uses the second to keep a lifeboat and other safety equipment,” he had said.

It is not immediately clear if he was flying the same plane on December 30. He is said to have been approaching a remote airport in Thailand when he crashed.

Investigations are still on to ascertain the reason behind the crash, Di Pietro said.