Say again

I enjoyed reading Meg Godlewski’s article about Rob Drake and his instructor, Christy Helgeson (Say Again Rob: Deaf student pilot takes to the skies over Seattle, Dec. 24, 2004, issue). I’m deaf myself, but I have the benefit of a cochlear implant. When I got my third class medical in 2001, I was profoundly deaf and wore a hearing aid that marginally helped me. I flew 8.6 hours with my first instructor. I depended on lip reading and listening, and when he wanted me to do something while I was concentrating, he would make gestures that I could see out of the corner of my eye, such as motioning pushing the throttle in.

In October of 2002, I received my cochlear implant, which has been a tremendous change in my hearing. I didn’t fly for about a year and a half due to other reasons than the surgery. In the spring of 2004, I got back into it, and now I’m close to finishing up my training. I can hear what’s being said on the radio, but I don’t always completely understand what’s being said, due to a lifetime habit of depending on lipreading and hearing. I hope I can “learn to listen” well enough to have the no radio restriction removed from my medical.

For a good read on one deaf pilot’s experience and a bit of history of a famous deaf pilot, read “Flight of the Gin Fiz” by Henry Kisor. It tells of his learning to fly and his retracing of the route of the first person to fly across the United States, a deaf pilot.

I would like to hear from any other deaf or hearing impaired pilots, especially in the Southern Wisconsin area. Please email me at

John Thompson
Stoughton, Wis.

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