When he lost his right arm in a car accident in 2008, Ron did not allow it to affect his life negatively. He has a passion for life, for his family and for flying, and at age 68 he is not planning to slow down any time soon. “I do not think that I will ever be able to retire. I cannot sit still, I have to work. I will probably work until I drop”.
He sees himself as lucky. “Everyone can create their own opportunities…and I have been so lucky to create the right opportunities!”
Ron suffers from dyslexia and was a bit of a rebel growing up. He ended up in the South African airforce after school and was seconded as a driver. “A sergeant-major could see that I was extremely stubborn and instead of scolding me the whole time, he took me under his wing. He taught me the extremely important life lesson that you can never beat the system, but that you must work it.” He has been working the system ever since.
He left the air force after a year and got his wireman’s license, diploma in electrical engineering and diploma in advanced management. He worked at a well-known vehicle manufacturer as a developmental engineer and in 1980 he moved his family to Brits, where he opened a successful business that supplies to the mining industry, and is still going from strength to strength.
Ron only started flying at 40. “Ever since my first time in a plane at age 18, I knew that I was born to fly. I could not afford it, though, and had to wait until I had enough money.” Ron earned his pilot’s license in 1988. “I cannot describe the feeling when you are up in the air, especially early morning when everything is still and clear. It is so exhilarating and just so much fun!”.
He started competition flying in 1991 and was invited to America in 1996 to compete as a novice in the World precision rally championship. In 1998 he received his Protea colours and has been flying in competitions ever since. Ron won the World landing competition twice, in Sweden in 2000 and in France in 2006.
Tragedy struck in 2008 when Ron was in a serious car accident when his vehicle hit a pothole. He sustained serious injuries and his right arm was amputated at the elbow. Ron spent a long time in hospital recuperating and the previously right-handed man had to learn to do everything with his left hand. It took hard work and a lot of frustrations to accomplish this. “I never thought about giving up, even though it would have been easier. I still had a lot of living to do. And I am too stubborn to let something like that dictate my life.”
A bionic arm was made for him, but he rarely uses it. “I wear it more like an accessory, when I really have to. It is much easier to go about everyday life without it.” It took him a year to gather up the courage to fly solo again. He had to do a re-validation of his pilot’s license, as the previously right-handed pilot was now left-handed. “ I plan to compete in the 2019 World landing championships in Austria. And I hope to win!”. He tries to fly at least once a week. “Practice makes perfect!”
Ron believes that he has come so far because he does not give up easily. “My stubbornness and work ethic has brought me to where I am today. I can do anything anyone else can do, it will just take me a little bit longer.”