SUFFERING a debilitating hip disease, Sarah Biddle was so ill she could not walk and even with corrective surgery she will never be able to run again.
But, she can fly.
Having passed rigorous medical tests, in the next couple of weeks the Teven woman will take her first passengers as a commercial pilot.
It's a dream come true and the culmination of an inspiring battle against an illness that threatened to take her dreams away.
"I'd always wanted to fly a plane, and in 2009 I was given a gift certificate of an instructional flight," she said.
"It was a phenomenal feeling. I couldn't stop smiling for weeks afterwards."
The instructor sensed her aptitude and suggested she study to be a pilot.
"I thought: 'Here is an opportunity to fly for a living, I might give it a shot'."
She went on to complete her private pilot licence (PPL) in 2009 and started training to be a commercial pilot, but pain had started in her left hip in what would eventually be diagnosed as complete fracture of the femur that had displaced her thigh from her hip.
"Within a few weeks I couldn't walk, drive or shower, let alone fly."
In September 2011, in her early 30s, Sarah was facing hip replacement.
She underwent two emergency surgeries that resulted in both hips having a "dynamite hip screw" that connected her thigh back to her femur again with months of intensive rehabilitation after each surgery.
The dream of becoming a pilot was slipping away.
"I was not sure if I would ever be able to fly again, but in 2012 I got to the point where I thought: I'll give it one more shot," she said.
With both hips held together with screws, rods and plates, Sarah has now made it through all exams, completed the required flying hours and received a Class 1 medical pass to fly.
Her determination impressed Raemon McEwen of Aussie Air Charter and Training in Ballina so much that he offered her work as a scenic flights pilot.
"Sarah is so devoted; it's her passion," he said. "She wasn't going to let anything stop her."
On the eve of her new career, Sarah can't wait to share the sky with others.
"I'm just so excited... (flying) is the greatest gift you could give someone."
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