Trevor Fennig used to fix up aircraft wings as a kid, and then fly them. Just before his 18th Birthday, he was engaging in target practice in the Indiana woods. His gun slipped in his holster, firing a bullet into his spine that severed the use of his legs.
In a desperate search, Fennig typed the phrase “paraplegic helicopter pilot” into an internet search engine. Thirty seconds later, he couldn’t believe what uploaded before his very eyes! It was a YouTube video of Stewart McQuillen, a partially paralyzed British War veteran, flying a helicopter using a new prosthetic device that he'd developed, called "The HeliLeg".
In McQuillen's story, he was told by his doctors that he would never fly again, after he lost the use of both his legs. His legs had been crushed when he was checking out a problem with a RAF Tornado GR1 Combat Aircraft during a military scramble in 1988. McQuillen never believed his doctors. As an engineer, he knew that someone could make a hand operated device to move his feet, one that would throttle a helicopter. That’s when he invented "The HeliLeg".
Trevor Fennig was also never going to give up his love of flying. He kept persuing it until he opened every door. He searched out Stewart McQuillen, who was living in Colorado for half the year. (During the other half of the year, McQuillen lived overseas.) McQuillen gave Fennig his first HeliLeg. Fennig is now returning to being a private helicopter pilot. His family and church in Brentwood, Indiana are raising the $30,000 that he needs to complete this task.
Together, McQuillen and Fennig now own a school, TYJ Global, in Broomfield, Colorado. it's a helicopter flight school for HeliLeg users. With a third Co-owner, Gina Fyola, they formed "The Return Flight Foundation" for disabled veterans and pilots who want to return to flying. Fennig will serve as the first disabled pilot among many disabled veterans, as well as disabled civilian pilots in the making. Their device will take you from the wheelchair straight into the helicopter pit. It's a dream for a lot of wheelchair users, giving them the freedom to fly.
TYJ Global is FAA approved. McQuillen and Fennig have also formed a non profit organization called “Copters for a Cause”, out of Denver. They are currently helping other charities and pilots get their flight hours in.
In the picture: Tervor Fennig is on the right, flying the helicopter while wearing the HeliLeg device. Stewart McQuillen, the inventor, is assisting on the left.
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