The people of France have long been obsessed with aviation. From sponsoring the Wright Brothers to perfecting the hot air balloon, the French love to take to the air. This is why it should come as no surprise that Dorine Bourneton, a paraplegic and French woman, made history as the first woman with paralysis to receive her acrobatic pilot’s license in the world.
But it wasn’t easy getting where she is today. From her injury that also occurred in the skies to achieving her pilot’s license in a country where pilots with spinal cord injuries are rare, Dorine has one indomitable spirit. Read on for her amazing story.
Why she’s fearless
Even before Dorine’s injury, she had already fallen in love with flying. In 1990 when she was just 15 years old, she joined a local flight group injury called Aero Club d’Auvergne. Her love of flight was inspired by her father growing up. But the next year in 1991 while on a flight with three friends, but plane they were in crashed into a mountain.
All three of Dorine’s friends died, while Dorine had to wait for help for 12 hours and somehow miraculously survived. She however sustained a lower complete back injury, and has been paralyzed from the waist down since. Her love of flying however hasn’t diminished at all, as some might think it would. In fact, she decided to become a champion for pilots with spinal cord injuries in France.
It wasn’t until recently pilots with disabilities could fly professionally in France. In 2003, it was signed into law that pilots with disabilities become professional pilots, and this is in many thanks to Dorine who fought hard for this to pass. Dorine has however had her private pilot’s license since she was just 20 years old; a license France has been offering pilots with disabilities for awhile.
In the 1990s after receiving her license, Dorine made a name for herself in the aviation world in France. In 1996, she took part in the Aerial Tour of Young Pilots, and in 1997 she was part of the Disabled Pilots Commission. And after it became legal for pilots with disabilities to fly professionally, she flew as Leader Patrol for Sky blue for one year.
Soon however Dorine found herself pregnant with her daughter Charline and married her longtime love Bruno, and took a break from aviation until 2011. And in 2011 she flew a presentation flight at Le Bourget, one of the biggest aviation festivals in France. This was also when she began to dream about flying acrobatically, something pilots with disabilities were you not yet allowed to do.
But against the law, she studied acrobatic training in an effort to get the law changed to prove that she was just as capable, and change the law she did.
In October 2014, Dorine made history when she became the first person with a disability in the world to receive her certification for manual steering commands on an aerobatic airplane. And just last weekend at Ferté Alais 2015, one of the biggest aviation festivals in France, she debuted amazing acrobatic skills.
She and William Feral, the other paraplegic who also received his acrobatic license, will be performing at Bourget 2015 next month; a huge aviation festival in France.
And Dorine went on to become an author, and has written two autobiographies. Her first autobiography is titled, The Favorite Color of My Mother and her most recent book, Above the Clouds, (Au-dessus des Nuages) profiles for aviation career.
And next month on June 25th “Air Handivoltige” will be on Planet Chain, a channel in France. This is a documentary on Dorine’s barriers in life, and why to never to give up on our dreams. Something, clearly, Dorine is exemplary at.
Would you fly in a small plane again if that is how your injury occurred?
- Visit her site: Dorine Bourneton
Watch the videos!
(get ready to brush up on your French. All videos below are in French!)