Pilot earns certificate despite damaged arm

November 12, 2013

Amanda Rodelander serves as an example that the dream of flying doesn’t die just because of adversity. In June 2001, she was in an ATV accident that left her left arm with nerve damage causing permanent numbness and extreme burning.

Rodelander recalled that she took her first flight when she was only a month old with her cousin Paul. "I flew every summer with him until I moved right down the road from him when I was 10. By age 13, I was working on his farm and he would take me flying every chance we got,” she said via email. “I had just started my first real flying lessons weeks before the accident. From June 28, 2001, to Oct. 19, 2012, I never got back in the air, because of my arm injury.”

In September 2012, Rodelander went to an airshow in Camdenton, Mo., and was inspired to fly again. “Less than a month later, I went back to the airport and talked to the guys at Airlake Aviation to see if they would at least give me a chance,” she said. “And much to my surprise, they said yes.”

As far back as she can remember, Rodelander said she has been in love with flying. “After going to that airshow in Camdenton, I just couldn't take it anymore. I had to try. The things I've been through and the experiences I had while I was taking lessons just made that feeling even stronger,” she said.

In the first few lessons it was a trial-and-error process to see how to make things work, said Rodelander. “I tried splints for my wrist, and other things but eventually I threw the splint in the back seat and just flew. I pretty much looked like a fish outta water—having a seizure,” she said.

But it ended up being a pretty simple process, said Rodelander. “I plant my elbow on the armrest for stability, pick my hand up and put it on the yoke, use my last three fingers to get a grip, and that's pretty much it,” she said. “I still have to do large pitch and roll changes with my right hand, but with the grip and my elbow solid in one spot, I get enough out of my arm to fly.”

Rodelander started her flight lessons with Airlake Aviation at Camdenton Memorial Airport on Oct. 19, 2012. She passed her private pilot checkride on June 4, 2013, with about 50 hours.

“When I actually passed my checkride, I realized that I have been very blessed to have gone through the wreck and my damaged arm, because now not only can I fly and live out my dream, but I've also been given the incredible opportunity to inspire other to go out and live out their own dreams,” said Rodelander. “It is rare that someone is put in a position to make a difference, and for me to be that person, I wouldn't change a single thing that I’ve been through. I want to use [my experience] to help others see that determination is a powerful thing and that no matter what you face, if you want something bad enough anything really is possible.”

Rodelander said that for 11 years, she was positive she would never fly again. “If you want something, you can't expect it to be easy. You're going to face challenges,” she said. “But if you really, really want to achieve your goals you just can't give up. Even when you're positive those goals are impossible to reach. The fact of the matter is that absolutely nothing can stop you but yourself.”

Topics Pilots