Invention Puts Paraplegic In Pilot’s Seat

He can’t walk, but he can fly. One young man earned his wings from the pilot’s seat of a helicopter with an invention some thought was impossible.

“I’m paralyzed from the chest down,” Trevor Fennig says, hoisting himself into the cockpit with only the strength of his arms. At just seventeen years old, Fennig’s life changed forever when a gun accident put a bullet in his spinal cord. He thought his dreams of becoming a pilot were long gone until he met Captain Stewart McQuillan.

“When I designed the system I suppose it was a little selfish. I was doing it for me. I wanted to fly helicopters.” A former Royal Airforce pilot, McQuillan became a paraplegic at age twenty-eight when an accident took the use of his legs. Decades later, he’s designed a tool to let dreams take flight.

Fennig wears a pneumatic leg brace that McQuillan invented. It moves the pedals of the helicopter via remote control, much like a video game. “It’s proportional to your thumb movements, so the speed you move your thumb at is the speed the leg will react,” McQuillan explains.

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