Going to AirVenture is always a special treat for new pilots, but it was even more special for Brad Jones of Georgia and Sean O’Donnell of Pennsylvania. Both are recipients of scholarships made available through Able Flight and received their Sport Pilot wings at a special ceremony held during AirVenture.
Jones and O’Donnell are the first graduates of the program, which was created to help disabled people earn their Sport Pilot certificates. Flight training is done in a specially modified Tecnam SkyArrow, donated by the Hansen Air Group of Georgia, which also donated 100 hours of training. The plane is equipped with a disabled-pilot option that allows pilots who cannot operate the rudder pedals with their feet to apply yaw input with a left side-stick that also includes a throttle control. The standard right side-stick controls pitch and bank, and also has buttons for electric rudder and elevator trim. Brake levers are controlled by the right hand. The left side stick can be removed for easy entry and also makes the rudder pedals available to able-bodied pilots.
Jones had a few flying lessons before the accident that put him in a wheelchair. Rather than give up his dream, he decided that he had to finish his flight training. He began his training for his Sport Pilot certificate May 31. He soloed June 10, approximately one year after his accident. By June 27th he had earned his certificate. “I was motivated,” he said with a grin.
O’Donnell was introduced as the newest Sport Pilot on the planet, having passed his check ride just days before the start of AirVenture.
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