Soaring Ambition: eBay Engineer Becomes First Asian Wheelchair Pilot

Tae Eun Kim, eBay APAC News Team

With the help of the Able Flight organization and a strong support network, Young-Jae Choi achieved a lifelong dream.

Young-Jae Choi has been unable to walk since he was three years old as a result of polio, but it hasn’t stopped him from fulfilling his dream – to fly an airplane.

With the help of mentors along the way, Young gained his pilot’s license in 2013, becoming a wheelchair aviator. He has since spoken about his inspirational story in his birth country of Korea in that country’s equivalent of a TED Talk. His eBay colleagues in the US translated his speech into nine languages so it can be shared with the world.

Last year Young, now a US citizen and a software engineer at eBay, appeared on the stage of 'Sebasi: 15 minutes that changes the world. He spoke about how he was able to fulfill his life-long goal with the support of people he refers to as his ‘dream partners’.  

“Dreams are contagious,” said Young, senior localization engineer eBay. “If you have one and never give up, you’ll end up finding your dream partners.”

Young was inspired by American Jessica Cox, who was born without arms and became the world’s first armless pilot in 2008.  ‘If she can fly with her feet, why can’t I do it with my hands?’ he thought.

Having been introduced to Able Flight, an organization that helps people with disabilities learn to fly, in 2013 Young was awarded one of its five annual scholarships. He earned his pilot certificate after six weeks of intensive training, becoming Able Flight’s first Asian wheelchair pilot.

Sebasi Open Translation Team, a Korean community based project, transcribed Young’s speech and translated it into English and Japanese, providing a transcription and video with subtitles.

His eBay colleagues were so moved by his story they then arranged to translate the talk into nine more languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, Flemish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Thanks to the efforts of the eBay Localization Team and the Sebasi Open Translation program, the speech can now be viewed on Sebasi’s YouTube channel with subtitles in 12 languages.

See how Young's speech was translated to 12 languages with the help of his eBay colleagues.

“Young’s inspiring story exemplifies our values and connects on a very emotional level,” said Marcel Bregman, Senior Localization Engineering Manager eBay. “We’re proud of his achievements and translated his speech to help him share his story.”

Meanwhile Young continues to set new goals. “I dream of flying cross-country with my own plane and upgrading my rating from sport to private pilot,” he said with a smile.

He also wants to change the way people view disabilities: “I want to continue sharing my experience to give others the courage to dream and hope.”