Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

Vashon Ranger to be rigged for Able Flight

Editor's note: This story was updated December 22 to correctly attribute the work of Clayton Smeltz. AOPA regrets the error.

Clayton Smeltz is working with Vashon Aircraft and Able Flight to create hand controls for a Vashon Ranger so that the airplane can be flown by people with disabilities, Able Flight announced recently. The nonprofit Able Flight hopes to add one additional equipped aircraft to the fleet it uses to train scholarship recipients to become sport and private pilots.

Able Flight trains students in a variety of aircraft. Photo by Chris Rose.

Smeltz is a pilot and engineer who is a paraplegic. He is well-known for designing adaptive controls for his Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet, and he gained FAA approval for those controls. Smeltz is leading the project and Vashon will review and approve Smelz's design.

Each year Able Flight awards scholarships to people with disabilities to help them achieve their dreams of flight. The scholarship recipients train intensively at Purdue University in Indiana, which is a partner in the program. At the end of the training period, anywhere from six to 12 new pilots earn their certificate. An annual tradition is for these new pilots to receive their wings at a ceremony at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin.

The Purdue students fly primarily in adapted Sky Arrows, an Italian-made light sport aircraft with a pusher-style propeller.

Able Flight has added a second location for training beginning in 2024, though the organization has not yet said where that will be. The new location will need adapted aircraft, and Able Flight hopes the aviation community will help.

The organization has raised money for one Vashon Ranger, which will be delivered in late January, but hopes to add a second.

A GoFundMe campaign has been created for the purchase of the second adapted Vashon Ranger. If you would like to participate, see the website.

“For 16 years, Able Flight pilots who use wheelchairs and veterans wounded in combat have trained in adapted Light Sport Aircraft, all made overseas,” Able Flight said. “With the help of very dedicated people at Purdue University we have made it work, but now with long waits for parts or even facing the issue that parts are no longer available, we know there's a better answer, and that's to use a specially adapted training plane made here in the United States. Enter the Vashon Ranger manufactured in Washington State.”

AOPA profiled the Vashon Ranger in 2022. Currently operating as a special light sport aircraft, the Ranger flies behind a Continental O-200 and holds 28.1 gallons of fuel.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.
Topics: Public Benefit Flying, Aviation Education Programs

Related Articles