Pilot group honors lost friend through scholarship

April 2, 2008

Pilot group honors lost friend through scholarship

By AOPA ePublishing staff

When retired Air Force Col. Haywood “Woody” Faison died at age 89, his many friends and former flight students in the East Cooper Pilots Association (ECPA) wanted to honor him.

What could be a more fitting tribute for this longtime pilot, flight instructor, and disabled war veteran than a flight scholarship? Enter Able Flight, a charitable organization that provides scholarships to help individuals with disabilities learn to fly.

“I was very touched by what Able Flight was doing because it gave the disabled person a sense of worth when their self-image has been damaged by the loss of a limb or the loss of the use of a limb,” said Cindy Ecleberry, past president of the ECPA, who invited Able Flight President Charles Stites to speak to her association.

The 80 members of the ECPA, based at Mt. Pleasant Regional-Faison Field in Mount Pleasant, S.C., were so impressed by Able Flight’s work that they raised $6,500 for a scholarship, and Able Flight introduced them to Ryan Kelly, a former staff sergeant in the Army reserves, who lost his leg below the knee in July 2003, while serving in Ramadi, Iraq.

Kelly, who had dreamed of becoming a helicopter pilot before he was wounded, learned as he recovered that, even with a prosthetic leg, he could qualify for civilian helicopter training. He was accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and graduated cum laude, with his helicopter certificate.

He plans to use the Able Flight scholarship, provided by the ECPA in March, to earn his fixed-wing certificate. Kelly will train at Philly Sport Pilot at Wings Field near Philadelphia—a new flight school launched by fellow Able Flight scholarship winner Sean O’Donnell.

April 2, 2008