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Sun, Jul 30, 2006

Hearing-Impaired Pilot Shares Experiences From Ongoing RTW Flight

AirVenture Stop On 40,000-Mile Journey

It is a dream flight of "firsts"; the first diesel-powered aircraft to fly around the world, a Diamond DA42 Twin Star; the first Scandinavian team to fly around the world in a light aircraft; the first flight whose main sponsor was a technology-leading hearing instrument manufacturer.

But perhaps the most important first is Johan Hammarstom, a young man with dreams of becoming a pilot -- and, who has congenital hearing impairment of both ears -- who is rewriting aviation history by becoming the world's first hearing impaired pilot to complete a round-the-world-flight in a light aircraft. The historic trip began March 15, 2006, and is set to wrap up August 31, 2006 at Barkarby airport, Stockholm, Sweden.

Along with other crew members, and close friends, Henrik Ejderholm and Martin Hakansson, this team of experienced pilots already had 35 years of accumulated flying before beginning the World Flight for Hearing this past March.

"I not only wanted to fly around the world, but I also wanted to show the world that although I had a hearing impairment, I am able to achieve my goals in life," said Hammarstom. 

For Hammarstom, this historic flight is the culmination of many years of effort, beginning with the recurrent message that, according to European rules, the hearing impaired without flying experience cannot earn a pilot's license.

Hammarstom, whose childhood dream was to become a pilot, was rebuffed time and time again over the years. After many dispensation application rejections, he found an audiologist professor who helped with special testing to prove to the medical board of the civil aviation authorities that he would be capable of flying in instrument conditions with the right technology. The dispensation application was finally approved and Hammarstom completed his pilot training.

Through World Flight for Hearing, Hammarstom says he is determined to de-stigmatize hearing impairments and inspire other hearing impaired to reach their life goals.

During the five-month 40,000 mile tour through 40 countries -- of which 29,000 miles have already been flown -- Worldflyer's team plans to land in 50 cities, engaging in numerous activities, including speeches at hard-of-hearing organizations and schools for hearing impaired children.

The mission was to create attention and exposure around hearing impairment; there are more than 120 million people around the world with hearing impairments.

"Since this was the first round-the-world flight with a hearing impaired pilot, I believe that I could contribute to changing attitudes towards hearing impairments," said Hammarstom. "Ultimately, wearing a hearing instrument should not be considered to be more odd than wearing a pair of glasses."

So far along his historic flight, Hammarstom -- who has rapidly become an important influencer in the Scandinavian aviation community -- has: founded the first Swedish Airpark; been buy and selling aircraft for four different companies; been running a company working with aircraft rentals, and consulting in the GA field in Scandinavia.

When he's not flying, Hammarstom, who is 29 and holds a master's degree in computer systems, is currently working as area operations manager in the medical IT field. He earned his soaring license in 1992, single engine aircraft license in 1996, multi-engine and instrument rating in 1998.

FMI: www.worldflightforhearing.com

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