Six new pilots will receive their Able Flight wings at a ceremony on July 30 at EAA AirVenture. Five trained from May to July during the nonprofit’s annual program at Purdue University, and the other pilot earned her license earlier at another location. Special guests on hand to pin their wings include National Aviation Hall of Fame Member Patty Wagstaff.
The new pilots are Marine Lt. Andrew Kinard of Massachusetts, who was injured in Iraq, losing both legs from the explosion of an IED; Deirdre Dacey of Massachusetts who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 16; Young Choi of California who had polio as a child; Warren Cleary of Georgia who is a former member of the U.S. National Skydiving Team and was paralyzed during training for competition in 2012; Dennis Akins of Texas who was 14 when he became paralyzed as the result of an accident on a trampoline; and Stephany Glassing of Georgia who was paralyzed in an auto accident as a teenager.
From mid-May to July, Akins, Choi, Cleary, Dacey and Kinard had six weeks of flight and ground training at Purdue. When the program ended, the pilots had logged over 260 hours with the help of Purdue student instructors Tim Gleeson, Jared Kuhn, Nick Losande, Abe McCollough and Matt Paczolt.
During the intensive course, they flew in the heat of summer in Indiana, attended daily ground school classes and waited out aircraft maintenance delays, but now their training has come to a close and they have all passed their check rides to become newly licensed pilots.
Able Flight’s Charles Stites said, “Over the past four years we have sent 17 students to Purdue, and they have all become licensed pilots. You can’t argue with a 100% success rate, and that success is based on motivated students who refuse to let a physical disability become an obstacle, outstanding young instructors who see this as a great opportunity to teach people who give it their all to become a pilot, and to a university that believes in providing an equal opportunity for those who are willing to do the work it takes. If you want to see what’s right with aviation today, you can begin by looking at Able Flight.”
For more information: AbleFlight.orgIn photo: (L-R) Warren Cleary, Dennis Akins, Deirdre Dacey, Lt. Andrew Kinard, and Young Choi