U.S. Navy veteran Dennis Sommers wanted to learn to fly. He bought an Ercoupe 415-C and had soloed before cancer ended his life in March 2017.
Sommers’ Ercoupe, which he named Little Bird, will help people with disabilities earn their wings. His widow, Sheila Sommers, donated the airplane to Able Flight. The nonprofit organization will use the airplane at its training program at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana.
“We are honored that Sheila found Able Flight and made the decision to donate Dennis’ airplane to further his wish that it would go to an organization that would use it to help fulfill the flying dreams of others,” Able Flight Executive Director Charles H. Stites said.
The Able Flight Ercoupe will be equipped with a new transponder with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out capability, and its baggage compartment will be enlarged to accommodate a wheelchair. Donations for those upgrades are accepted through the organization's website.
The first Able Flight pilots of 2017 have completed their checkrides at Purdue University, the organization announced July 5. On July 1, retired U.S. Army Capt. Ferris Butler was the first of the six students to pass his checkride. Melissa Allensworth passed her checkride on July 2. Four other students at Purdue and two at Ohio State University are scheduled to take their checkrides soon. The new pilots will be honored with a wings pinning ceremony at this year’s EAA AirVenture at 10 a.m. on July 25 at Theater in the Woods.