After earning their wings to become sport pilots, six pilots in Able Flight’s training program were honored July 29. During a wing-pinning ceremony on Boeing Plaza at EAA AirVenture, four of the six pilots took the main stage to be congratulated for their accomplishments.
Able Flight has worked with Purdue University for the last five years to provide training to those who have physical disabilities; of the 23 students Purdue instructors have trained, 100 percent have earned their pilot certificate. The students train in specially equipped Sky Arrows and a Flight Design CT light sport aircraft. Able Flight has been training students for the past seven years and has produced 39 pilots, sport and private, and offers nine aviation career scholarships.
“They believe in their students,” Able Flight Executive Director Charles Stites said of the Purdue instructors. “They believe in our organization.”
Stites briefly explained the difficulties the pilots had overcome, including vehicle accidents, injuries from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a congenital spinal condition.
The pilots are quick to point out that “just having a disability doesn’t mean they’re an inspiration,” Stites said, adding that these pilots are deserving and inspiring because “they’ve earned it.”
AOPA President Mark Baker pinned wings on Ellen Howards, the recipient of an $8,000 scholarship from the AOPA Foundation. This marked the second year of a three-year commitment for the scholarships. Curtis Stanley, Tim Klemm, and Jason Gibson also received their wings. Daniel Clayton and Chris Sullivan were not able to attend.
Stites also announced that Hartzell Propeller had become the latest company to donate to the organization’s scholarship fund, and accepted an $8,000 check from Signature Flight Support for another scholarship.