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 from France, 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 receiving her professional pilot’s license post-injury, Dorine has one indomitable spirit. Read on for her amazing story.
Why she’s fearless
Long before her injury, Dorine had already fallen in love with flying. In 1990 when she was just 15 years old, she joined the local flight group – Aero Club d’Auvergne. Her love of flight was inspired by her father growing up, who also loved to fly. But the next year in 1991 while on a small plane with three friends, the plane crashed into a mountain.
All three of Dorine’s friends died, while Dorine survived, but had to wait for help for 12 hours and somehow miraculously survived. She however sustained a complete back injury in the crash, and has been paralyzed from the waist down since. Her love of flying however hasn’t diminished 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. Dorine has had her private pilot’s license since she was 20 years old (a license France has been offering pilots with disabilities for awhile), but this is pretty cool.
In the 1990s after receiving her private pilot’s 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 she decided to take a break from aviation. And in 2011 she flew again publicly – a presentation flight at Le Bourget, one of the biggest aviation festivals in France. This was also when she began to dreaming about her next goal – flying acrobatically, something pilots with disabilities were you not yet allowed to do in France.
But she studied acrobatic training in an effort to get the law changed, to prove that she was just as capable as acrobatic flying as anyone else, and change the law she did.
It occurred October 2014 when Dorine made history becoming the first woman 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. Watch her fly
She, along with William Feral (another paraplegic who received his acrobatic license along with Dorine) will be performing at Bourget 2015 next month; another huge aviation festival in France. That should be something to watch for.
And Dorine went on to become an author as well, writing 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), which profiles her aviation career.
And next month on June 25th “Air Handivoltige” will air in France. This is a documentary on Dorine’s life and why to never to give up on our dreams. Something, clearly, Dorine is exemplary at.
Would you fly a 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!)