July 28, 2009
By Dave Hirschman
Mal Zachary was making a bank deposit when he was shot and suffered a severe spinal injury. Despite paralysis in both legs, he earned a sport pilot certificate two weeks ago. Zachary’s flight training held some perils, too. On a mock checkride with his instructor, the single-engine SkyArrow aircraft they were flying lost power and made a forced landing on a highway near Atlanta, Ga.
“Being in aviation is an extraordinary gift,” airshow performer Mike Goulian said in presenting Zachary’s wings. “I hope you have an amazing career.”
Jeremy Maddox, also of Georgia, soloed after just 11 hours of flight training and earned a sport pilot certificate in 37 hours. “Jeremy uses a wheelchair,” former TV newsman Miles O’Brien said in presenting the Able Flight Wings. “But he’s a pilot.”
Jessica Cox, an Arizona woman born without arms, learned to fly an Ercoupe using only her feet to manipulate the controls. She’s the first pilot with such a physical limitation ever granted an FAA certificate.
Airshow performer and aerobatic champion Patti Wagstaff pinned on Cox’s Able Flight wings. “Aviation is a metaphor for achievement,” Wagstaff said, and commended Cox for achieving a goal that no one had ever reached before.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
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