On May 19, six Able Flight scholarship winners will arrive at Purdue University in Indiana to begin five weeks of intensive flight and ground training, an experience that will change their lives forever. The six men come from all over the country, and though their disabilities and challenges may be varied, they share the common goal of wanting to become a pilot.
The scholarship winners will live in university housing and be trained by university graduate students at Purdue’s towered airport (LAF).
Able Flight’s Charles Stites said, “This is the third annual Able Flight-Purdue University training program, and the partnership has been wonderful for our students and for the university. Working with a world class aviation program offers our pilots the best training possible, and the university benefits from being able to expand their training to include people with disabilities.”
The partnership has grown steadily since two students participated in 2010 and four in 2011. With six attending this year, it has increased the demands on both Able Flight and Purdue.
“Using our two students per plane formula, this year we will provide three airplanes — two from Hansen Air Group of Atlanta and one from Philly Sport Pilot of Wilmington, Delaware. With one instructor per student, the university is now selecting six instructors so that each pilot can fly up to twice a day during their training.”
The six scholarship recipients are:
Jason Jernigan of Youngstown, Fla., who will be the second Able Flight student who is deaf to train at Purdue. Jason is a student at Florida State University studying criminology.
Wesley Major of Wilmington, Delaware, who is a graduating senior at the University of Delaware and was paralyzed in an auto accident several years ago.
Devon Radloff of Janesville, Wis., who has cerebral palsy, and is a graduating high school senior who will be enrolled in a college aviation program in the fall.
Tyrell Rhodes, who is a graduating high school senior from St. Louis, has cerebral palsy and plans to pursue a career as an air traffic controller.
Steven Scott is from the San Diego area and was paralyzed in an auto accident several years ago. He plans to use this experience to inspire others facing the same life-changing experience.
Matt Sponaugle of Elkins, W.Va., is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan University and was paralyzed in a skiing accident. He is an IT manager at a health care systems company.
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 over 40 flight and aviation career training scholarships. For more information: AbleFlight.org.
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