The latest episode in our Resilience Unravelled series has now been released, Resilience Unravelled – Aviation, adventure and adversity.
In this episode, Dr. Russell Thackeray talks to Australian Ryan Campbell. Ryan became the youngest person and first teenager to fly solo around the world, completing the 24,000 nautical mile journey to 15 countries in a tiny single engine airplane.
Ryan’s fascination with flying began when he travelled overseas with his parents when he was six years old. He decided he wanted to be a pilot and from then on worked to achieve his dream. At fourteen he had two after-school jobs to fund flying lessons and at fifteen sat at the controls for the first time. When he was seventeen, he became interested in the idea of flying around the world. At that point the youngest person who had achieved this had been 37. This spurred him on and, after two years of planning he took off from Sydney on his adventure.
After highs and lows that tested his resilience, Ryan completed the circumnavigation and broke the record. On his return his achievement became a huge news story. He was named as one of Australia’s fifty greatest explorers of all time and wrote a book about his adventure called Born to Fly. Following this he travelled across Australia on the speaking circuit but realised he still wanted to fly. He turned down a job with a major airline (the one that had sparked his interest as a six year old) and took a job flying a vintage 1930s Tiger Moth.
On December 28 2015, he took off with a colleague. The engine failed at very low level and seconds later the plane crashed. Ryan was the only survivor and was cut out of the wreckage and taken to hospital. He had five breaks in his back, a shattered face, shattered right ankle and a spinal cord injury that rendered him paraplegic with no movement from the waist down.
During eighteen months in hospital and rehabilitation, Ryan was on a journey to get back walking and flying. He found it really difficult to deal with what had happened to him and why he had survived. One day he realised he needed to ‘toughen up’. He was in a bad situation and it was going to be a long, hard road. To get through it he had to grit his teeth toughen up and move on from adversity. From this point, although things were still difficult, he found the situation easier to manage and by focusing on what he could change he started his recovery.
Aviation had always been Ryan’s passion. When he was injured and it was taken away he felt he had lost his identity. This had also happened to him after he completed his round the world trip. After two years of planning, he had achieved his goal so he realised he had reassess and plan for something new. His rehabilitation journey also required reassessment and planning. Ryan feels we all need to anticipate the need to adapt. Adversity is part of life so by realising we may need to make changes we can normalise situations. They don’t go away but they can become more tolerable
Flying has brought the most positive and negative aspects of Ryan’s life. Although he has little feeling below his waist or movement in his feet he can walk. He also flies modified planes and has gained his commercial helicopter licence. Ryan now lives in Nashville Tennessee and is a key note speaker, helping people to navigate change, live with adversity, deal with the highs and the lows and make themselves stronger and more resilient.
You can get in touch with Ryan through his website.
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