Heather Schultz and Chris Spaur may be separated by thousands of miles, and their physical challenges may be very different, but the young woman from New Jersey and the young man from California have a lot in common. Both have a passion for becoming pilots, and both will travel to Indiana this summer to take part in the first Able Flight-Purdue University flight training program.
In early June, Heather and Chris will arrive in West Lafayette where they’ll train with Purdue flight instructors while living in an accessible dorm just a few minutes from the university airport. Not only will the two have the opportunity to learn to fly at one of the nation’s premier university aviation programs, but the partnership will allow the Purdue Department of Aviation Technology to experience training students with physical disabilities, and to do so in an adapted Light Sport Aircraft. Heather and Chris will learn in a Sky Arrow 600 LSA provided by Philly Sport Pilot, a flight school operated by Able Flight pilot Sean O’Donnell.
One of three children in an athletic and adventurous family, Heather was used to the challenges of soccer, softball and skiing when she sustained a C5 spinal cord injury in 2006. Since then, she has faced more than three years of intensive physical therapy, defying the predictions of doctors who had told her she wouldn’t walk again. Heather’s training is made possible through her selection as the 2010 recipient of the “Jet Aviation Scholarship.”
Chris is a 19-year-old college freshman, and with just a casual look, you might not notice the effects of muscular dystrophy. He’s one of triplets, shares the condition with a sister, and with his scholarship, he’s soon to share something else with several family members. Both Chris’ mother and his uncle are pilots, and though he has dreamed of joining them, up until now, that’s all it has been, a dream. Now, thanks to his selection as the recipient of Able Flight’s “Bombardier Scholarship” for 2010, he will follow in the family tradition and become a pilot.
Able Flight, a national nonprofit that provides flight and career training opportunities for people with physical disabilities, is the only one of its kind in the United States. Since 2006 it has awarded 28 scholarships. For more information: AbleFlight.org.