Eight new sport pilots earned their wings at a ceremony July 25 at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The pilots received scholarships from Able Flight, a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities learn how to fly.
Able Flight has been working with Purdue University to train pilots since 2006. Six pilots completed six weeks of intensive flying at the university with volunteer flight instructors: Melissa Allensworth, Kathryn Brenner, Ferris Butler, Benedict Jones, Kunho Kim, and Zackary Kukorlo.
As the new pilots received their pins, Able Flight Executive Director Charles Stites praised each scholarship recipient’s tenacity. For example, Jones “wasn’t one with a lifetime dream of becoming a pilot,” Stites said. “But when he found it was possible, he gave it his all and he excelled at our program at Purdue.” Jones was paralyzed in an accident when he was young.
Brenner is a “classic aviation dreamer,” a child with her fingers through the airport fence, Stites said. She wanted to build a career in aviation, but when diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes “she was told it would diminish her dreams,” he said. “We decided to give her a scholarship and get out of her way.”
Kim, a student at Harvard University, promotes accessible travel and has created a website and published a book for those who face physical challenges. Confined to a wheelchair, he realized he would have greater mobility and broader horizons at the controls of an airplane, Stites said. Kim hopes to fly a long cross-country to inspire others, with the eventual goal of flying around the world.
Stites said Able Flight rented five aircraft from Philly Sport Pilot, Hansen Air Group, and Racine Sport Flyers. “We ferried them here, checked out instructors, and then come back and get them at the end [of the program],” he said. “We’re proud to be supporting these companies by purchasing 330 hours of aircraft rental in less than two months. That’s part of what we do with funds” from sponsors, he said.
The deadline for applications for 2018 scholarships is Dec. 31. See the website for more information.