When Chris Gschwendtner was airlifted to a field hospital after a rocket exploded next to him in Bagdad, no one could look ahead and see where he is today. The concussion of the explosion left the young infantryman with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), the hidden injury so common to those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. For Chris, his injury was compounded by being the second TBI he had experienced in less than six weeks.
After his injuries he made it his mission to continue serving his country by being a member of the U. S. Army Reserves, and to prove he can still excel as a student — this time in aviation. Studying doesn’t come as easily for the recipient of two Purple Hearts as it did when he earned a degree from Penn State, so Chris simply works harder. That’s how he became a Sport Pilot, and that’s how he has now become a certified Light Sport Repairman.
With tuition and expenses paid through his Able Flight Career Training Scholarship, Chris graduated with a 98 on his final exam at Rainbow Aviation in California, and within days was hired by the maintenance department at Chesapeake Sport Pilot near his home in Maryland.
“Chris is an outstanding example of why we created this scholarship,” said Charles Stites of Able Flight. “With the help of a generous donor we paid for his training, and Chris has now proven he deserved the opportunity. During his training at Rainbow Aviation I heard that he didn’t even take a weekend day off. He just kept pushing himself to learn as much as he could. Now his dedication has paid off with his new job at Chesapeake Sport Pilot.”
Of his scholarship and his new career, Gschwendtner said, “This opportunity has opened so many new doors for me. I hope that I can live up to that and make all the people that make Able Flight possible very proud. I want to thank them once again for seeing the potential in me and giving me this amazing opportunity.”
Able Flight is a national aviation nonprofit providing flight and aviation career training opportunities for people with disabilities and is the only one of its kind in the United States. Rainbow Aviation created the first FAA-accepted training program for the Light Sport Repairman rating. Chesapeake Sport Pilot provides Sport Pilot flight training and maintenance and repair services for Light Sport Aircraft.