FORT WORTH, Texas — The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) celebrated the achievements of U.S. Marine Lt. Andrew Kinard upon the successful completion of flight training as AOPA’s 2013 Aviation Summit opened here Thursday.
Kinard learned to fly after having lost both legs while serving in Iraq. He took flight training through Able Flight, a non-profit program that assists those with disabilities to learn how to fly. The AOPA Foundation provides funding for the scholarship through generous member donations. Kinard is the first recipient of the AOPA-Able Flight Scholarship. He was recognized by AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker as Baker formally opened Aviation Summit 2013.
Kinard grew up in Spartanburg, S.C., and attended the U.S. Naval Academy. Upon graduation, he passed up a Marine aviator’s slot and instead chose ground duty and commanded a unit in Iraq. Within six weeks of his arrival there, he lost both legs to an improvised explosive device during a foot patrol. He has since undergone more than 70 surgeries.
During his recovery, he also worked on the staff of a U.S. senator, enrolled simultaneously in business and law degree programs at Harvard University and took up sport pilot training with Able Flight.
“I am really inspired by the scars on my arms because it could be a lot worse,” Kinard recently told an interviewer. “Be thankful for what you have got. Do not look at what you have lost, but look at what you still have.”
Kinard’s Able Flight training took place at Purdue University in Indiana, which partners with the program. He and other participants took six weeks of intensive flight and ground school, flying twice a day on average as weather allowed.
Able Flight’s mission is to offer people with disabilities a unique way to challenge themselves through flight and aviation career training, and by doing so, to gain greater self-confidence and self-reliance. It has created 33 new pilots since its inception in 2006.