A SOLDIER from Chivenor is set to fly a microlight to the South Pole.
Staff Sergeant Matt Raasch-Sotinwa, 41, is one of seven disabled or injured soldiers and airmen who aim to fly to the Antarctic in a microlight — something which has never been attempted before.
Matt, part of 24 Commando Engineer Regiment, was invited to audition for the expedition by the Battle Back programme, backed by Help 4 Heroes, which aims to get injured service personnel into sport.
He said: "I had a meeting with one of the expedition leaders, did well on the aptitude tests, he liked what he saw and thought I'd be ideal for the team."
That was in January 2012, four years after Matt discovered he had a golf ball sized brain tumour in his head, which would leave him temporarily paralysed.
"I was surfing at Saunton," he said, "and had an awesome ride.
"I was showboating really, did a somersault and caused myself to collapse. I came round in a foot or so of water and felt like I was in a big hole.
"I couldn't get out of it and was only seconds away from dying or being seriously brain damaged when the water went out."
But he was then able to get up, went to the pub and it wasn't until a few weeks later that another similar incident prompted him to go to the doctor.
Two weeks later Matt went under the knife and was left paralysed.
But after spending six months to a year learning to walk again Matt was soon back into sport and took up sprinting.
As a T-36 sprinter he was the fifth fastest man in Britain and only narrowly missed out on selection for the 2012 Paralympics.
Fresh from that disappointment Matt has now taken on the challenge of a lifetime to fly to the South Pole, despite never having flown before.
He's now halfway to obtaining his pilot's licence and will have it well before the expedition starts in December 2014.
He said: "There have been one or two moments in training where my heart's been in my mouth.
"And what we're planning isn't easy, so we've got to be confident. We're not quite there yet but we will get there.
"It's an exciting venture and no-one's going into it half heartedly so I'm sure we'll be successful."
To find out more about the expedition or to support it visit www.fly2pole.com.