G'Day Mate: Meet Ryan Campbell

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At 19 years old, after spending two years planning, training, and fundraising over a quarter of a million dollars, Campbell successfully flew solo around the world. This journey broke the world record at the time, for the youngest pilot and first teenager to circumnavigate the globe solo in a single-engine airplane in 2013. Campbell traveled 24,000 nautical miles, visited 35 destinations and 15 countries, and learned some profound life lessons.

Campbell’s true test would come just two years later, on a normal day that turned into any pilot’s worst nightmare. An airplane crash occurred after liftoff and left Campbell in the hospital, fighting for his life. After months of hospitalization and over a year dedicated to rehabilitation, and learning to live life with a spinal injury, Campbell believes he transformed into a different person. He shares, “I may have lost out physically, but I gained mentally in ways I never knew possible.”

Campbell eventually moved from Australia to Tennessee, where he works as a motivational speaker, sharing his new mindset with audiences. His days off are spent in the sky or driving a two-and-a-half-ton pink Cadillac built nearly 35 years before he was born.

AOPA caught up with Campbell to find out more about his passion for aviation, what helped him overcome adversity and continue following his dreams, and why he enjoys inspiring others to pursue their dreams.

How did you get involved in aviation?

I was 6 years old when I first climbed aboard a [Boeing] 737, we were bound for an island in the Pacific called Vanuatu. We took off out of Sydney airport in Australia and headed across the ocean, I remember being so amazed at the size of the city and the fact we could zoom past the clouds. Between the sites from the window and a visit to the cockpit I was absolutely hooked, I really had discovered my passion in life.

What is your favorite thing about flying?

Freedom. The ability to take control of a personal flying machine and see the world from an entirely new and unique perspective. I always talk about how lucky we are to live in this time where flight is not only accessible but has such a fun, welcoming and encouraging community around it.

What is your biggest fear in aviation?

I have lived through any pilot’s worst nightmare, a horrific accident, and a spinal cord injury and paraplegic diagnosis. I was so determined

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