Friday, March 11, 2016

Flying a Tailwheel or Conventional Gear Aircraft

Here is a short document I produced years ago for my tailwheel students. This document does not include extreme detail of the fine art of flying tail-draggers, rather an outline.


Jim Skibinski

FAR 61.31 No person may operate a tail wheel aircraft unless that pilot has received instruction in normal and crosswind takeoffs and landings, wheel landings. This endorsement is not required if the pilot has logged PIC flight time in a tail wheel aircraft prior to April 15, 1991.

Stability of tail wheel and tricycle gear aircraft

1. TW Center of gravity located behind the gear which is the stabilizing force
            a. Due to basic physics, stability is based upon C of G leading stabilizing force. 
            b. Landing with side drift can initiate a loss of control called a “Ground Loop”
            c. Landing w/ crosswinds compounds the instability due to weather vaning
            d. Tri-gear are stable due to C of G located forward of mains.
            e. Tri-gear landing with side drift will correct itself (to a degree)
            b. Tri-gear landing w/ drift cancels out any weather vaning

3. Rotating slipstream
    Torque (difference in models)
    P Factor
    Gyroscopic precession
            a. Adversely affects TW when tail is raised

4. Runway surfaces
            a. Grass, wet or dry
            b. Gravel or other “soft” surface
            c. Pavement
            d. Length, width, obstructions

5. Aircraft differences
            a. Gear spread
            b. Tail length
            c. Forward visibility
            d. Gear shock absorber design (steel, bungee)
            e. Weather vaning tendency – surface area aft of C of G
            d. Angular momentum (amount of mass fwd of gear)
                Heavy engine or long nose
f. Nose over tendency
    C of G located near mains helps improve control but increases
    Nose over tendency


1. Tire pressure (low pressure can increase nose over tendency)
2. Tail wheel condition and orientation
3. Examine tail surfaces carefully, (proximity to ground)
4. Examine brake condition – wear, leaks, ice, mud etc.

Engine Start

1. Brakes held
2. Hand on starter, hand on throttle, hold elevator back
    Obviously this could be a handful


1. Brake Check – must be performed
2. Taxi speed – SLOW
            a. Slow speeds allow more positive control
            b. Heavy braking at slow speeds will not likely end in a nose over
            c. S turns may be required
            d. Use only min pwr to taxi – prevent excessive use of brakes resulting in a
                Locked brake during the take-off roll
3.  Flight control positioning in any amount of wind
            a. Yoke back – taxi into the wind
            b. Yoke forward – taxi with the wind
            c. Crosswind or into quartering wind – ailerons turn into
            d. Crosswind or Away from a quartering wind – ailerons turn away
                                “Dive away - Climb into”
4. Rudder use and authority
            a. Recovery from a turn must be initiated sooner than a tricycle gear
            b. Avoid over control due to excessive brake use
            c. Small radius turns can be accomplished by applying brake and allowing the
                tailwheel to unlock and swivel. To engage steering again is a matter of stepping
                on the opposite brake and applying opposite rudder.
            d. Do not lock brake and pivot around main gear, imposes much strain on gear
            e. Small radius turns can also be produced by applying full rudder, a small burst
                of power and moving the elevator slightly forward to unload the tailwheel.

Normal Take-off

1. Elevator back, advance throttle slowly. As speed increases, move yoke forward
    transferring steering from the tailwheel solely to the rudder.
    a. As power is brought up, the P-factor, torque and slipstream forces take effect.
    b. As the tail comes up, gyroscopic force takes effect, P-factor neutralizes,
        torque and slipstream are still present.
    c. Torque is less prevalent with the tail down because the plane of orientation
        is not perpendicular to the ground. Torque loads the left main. (more friction)
2. Tail up, speed increasing, elevator control moves to neutral as speed increases.
3. Maintain directional control by correcting deviations and maintaining centerline by
    quick, positive application of rudder. Apply rudder and then get off of it. This is a
    good technique beginners can use. Over time rudder control will be smoother
    and more controlled.
4. When flying speed is attained – simply apply slight aft elevator pressure and fly off.

Short Field Take-off 

1. Line up the airplane on the runway and let it roll forward just enough to center
    the tailwheel
2. Hold the airplane with the brakes, and with the stick back, gradually apply full power.
3. Release the brakes and as speed picks up let the elevator control streamline itself.
    Steer the airplane to hold it straight.
4. If necessary, apply slight forward elevator control to raise the tail 4 to 6 inches. In
    some airplanes, the tail may rise of its own accord without control input.
5. Allow the aircraft to fly itself off in this attitude.

Soft Field Take-off

NOTE:  In departing a soft field, it is important that the tail not be raised in order to
Prevent the airplane from nosing over. The tail should be held down until lift off.
Be careful of using excessive elevator resulting in leaving the ground is an excessive
nose high attitude, possibly resulting in a stall close to the ground.

1. Lower the flaps (if equipped) as recommended by flight manual
2. Gradually apply full power and insure take-off is straight.
3. Maintain the elevator control slightly aft of neutral to keep the tail down. Should
    both mains bog down, it may be necessary to apply full aft elevator control. During
    taxi if both mains get bogged down or taxiing is impossible, rapid alternating   
    application of the rudder may loosen the wheels.
4.  As the airplane approaches flying speed, back elevator pressure should be relaxed
     in preparation for take-off.
5. When the airplane leaves the ground, it is leveled of until it accelerates to the best
    rate of climb or best angle speed (Vy) (Vx).

Crosswind Take-off 

1. Use aileron to keep the windward wing down.
2. Delay raising the tail to ensure enough airspeed for positive rudder control and to
    overcome weather cocking caused by the crosswind.
3. Make the departure from the ground a positive one by raising the tail slightly
    higher (prevents pre-mature lift off) and allowing acceleration to a higher than
    than normal speed before lift-off.

Three Point Landing 

1. The approach is no different than a tricycle geared aircraft
2. The airplane is gradually flared out close to the ground
3. Keep the aircraft flying as long as possible. Continually increasing back elevator.
4. Aircraft will finally stall, hopefully only a foot or two above the ground.
5. The stick must be held full back during roll-out.
6. Brakes should not be applied unless needed, and then only sparingly and with a
    pumping motion.

Wheel Landing 

1. Normal approach profile and airspeeds
2. In the early part of the flare-out, let the main wheels contact the ground with minimum
    downward velocity. It may be advisable to carry some power to the touchdown point.
3. Unload the wing by applying just enough forward elevator to keep the tail up during
    the landing roll. Continue until full forward elevator is achieved… the tail will descend
    upon its own accord.
4. Once the tail has lowered to the ground, apply full back elevator to keep the tail wheel
    on the ground.

Short Field Landings 

Specified airspeed is the key to this approach – Keep it in check. The approach speed is typically slower than normal approach speed resulting in higher drag associated with a higher angle of attack. Therefore, in most cases this will be a power-on approach. The landing will be a three point since it ensures the lowest possible speed at touchdown. As soon as the aircraft is rolling on the ground, full back elevator is applied and brakes can be pumped using an alternating sequence. Should the plane show signs of wanting to nose over, a blast of throttle will prevent it. If equipped with flaps, raise them as soon as the aircraft is on the ground transferring more weight to the wheels.  

Soft Field Landings 

The soft field landing is performed like the short field version except that the application
Of brakes is omitted. Some power is generally carried because it allows the airplane to be flown at its slowest speed. Also, flaps should stay extended until the aircraft comes to a
stop. Once again, if the nose wants to go over, don’t hesitate to use a blast of throttle to
force the tail down.

The Bounce 

A bounce can result when an aircraft is dropped in with excessive airspeed. A bounce can also result from attempting a three point landing and not continuing to increase elevator back pressure through the landing sequence. As the aircraft touches down on the mains, due to the C of G behind the mains, the tail will rotate downward effectively increasing the angle of attack. With excessive speed and increased AOA (more lift) the aircraft will rise up into the air with a high angle of attack and decreasing airspeed. Effectively the aircraft will be at a much higher altitude in a stalled condition. Doing nothing at this point is VERY bad… the ensuing drop from this event will get your attention. Most bounces are mild and can be solved by holding the elevator back and riding through the bounce.

Recovery from a severe bounce is a follows:
1. Application of full throttle for an immediate go-around
2. Let the airplane descend and flare again when close to the ground. This will be   
    accomplished safely only if sufficient air speed exists, probably because the original
    approach and flare were attempted at excessive speed.
3. If insufficient air speed exists for item 2. above, the pilot may apply sufficient power
    to prevent a stall, allow the airplane to descend and flare again for a landing.

Crosswind Landings  

For better control of drift during touchdown, use the wing down method while performing a wheel landing. Same procedures apply for drift control… windward wing down using opposite rudder to maintain course. Also, use the same procedure for wheel landings. At touchdown, forward elevator to unload wing while maintaining aileron into the wind. Aileron increases as airspeed decreases. As the tail is coming down, the aileron control will be full into the wind and elevator control full forward. As the tail settles, keep aileron into the wind and apply full aft elevator.

For lighter wind conditions, a three point landing can be used. 

Short and Soft Field Take Offs, great reprint from Mike Hart

Short-field landings are all about using excellent technique to get your airplane into a tight spot. That same technique, however, can put you in an even tighter spot when it's time to leave.
Most general aviation aircraft land shorter than they leave. This performance disparity can be subtle at sea level, where the two numbers might be equal. As altitude and temperature increase, however, the gulf between them grows and it often can take twice as much runway to depart than it does to land. Airspeed control gets you into a short field, but horsepower is what gets you out, and available horsepower drops as altitude increases.
From a risk-management perspective, takeoffs have significantly greater consequences than landings. While you are much more likely to have an accident during the landing phase of flight, you also are much more likely to walk away from it. According to the AOPA Air Safety Institute's 22nd Nall Report on general aviation accidents in 2010, there were more than twice as many GA accidents during the landing phase than takeoff, 361 versus 142. However, there were less than a third as many fatalities during landing than takeoff, eight versus 28. The higher fatality rate for takeoffs should get any pilot's attention, particularly when considering a challenging short or soft field.
The reason for the disparity can almost entirely be explained in two words: stall/spin. It doesn't happen on landings as frequently as it does on takeoffs. For short- and soft-field takeoff accidents, it is one of the single most common factors linking fatalities.


The worst accidents to read about are the ones that stand out as obviously preventable. This is what makes reading short- and soft-field accident reports so painful. The one thing they seem to have in common is the fact that the majority seem to be obviously preventable.
Given the constraints associated with short and/or soft fields takeoff, good aeronautical decisions are paramount. That means you need to know with 100 percent certainty that your proposed takeoff is within the performance envelope of the aircraft, given the conditions. It's not difficult; you simply run the numbers. But it is shocking how often this is not done, with predictable results. Many short-field accidents could have been easily avoided by actually checking the POH and asking the obvious questions about the factors affecting takeoff performance. There is a reason we are taught this stuff.
The basic questions you need to ask and answer: How long is the field? What is the wind? What is the temperature? What is the altitude? How much weight is in the plane? Your POH should give you some convenient tables or a graph allowing you to determine the theoretical distance needed for takeoff. If the calculated length of the field is less than the number calculated from the POH, don't even think about turning your prop. An obvious accident is avoided.

Double-Check Assumptions

If the calculated theoretical takeoff distance is at all close to the runway length, you definitely want to check both your math and the generosity of your assumptions. Little things—like errors in math—matter a lot when you are shaving the runway length close to the limits of aircraft performance.
For example, the FAA's Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK, FAA-H-8083-25A, dated 2008) contains errors (errata items 36 and 37, updated November 19, 2013) that in the real world could have been fatal: "Wind component (knots) column; the red line is incorrect…. Change the ground roll distance to be 700 feet, not 600 feet. Change the total distance over a 50-foot obstacle to be 1400 feet, not 1200 feet." If the calculation was being done for a 1300-foot runway, the outcome might not be pretty.
This FAA mistake was only about the effect of wind components, but a lot of other factors can become links in the accident chain when the runway is short. And, as the sidebar above explains, these factors can add up.

Acceleration Thieves

Of course, not every factor affecting takeoff performance will have a table in the POH. According to the PHAK, "In addition to the important factors of proper procedures, many other variables affect the takeoff performance of an aircraft. Any item that alters the takeoff speed or acceleration rate during the takeoff roll will affect the takeoff distance." I try to think of short- and soft-field conditions together because this is where the next round of preventable short-field departure accidents come from: failure to adequately consider runway conditions that reduce acceleration.
There are a myriad of highly variable factors that can extend your takeoff ground roll. You won't find a convenient table giving calculations for snow depth, amount of sand or height of grass, but some rules of thumb are provided. These are collected in the table above. Keep in mind, however, that there is such a thing as an impossible surface, one that has more friction than your airplane has horsepower.

Another significant acceleration thief is runway slope. If you can see one end of the runway is higher than the other, you will likely want to make depart downhill unless there is a significant wind. Some POHs will include slope in takeoff performance calculations; others don't.
A good rule of thumb is to add 10 percent to your takeoff distance for each percentage of slope (a one-foot rise over 100 feet of runway results in a one-percent slope). The runway at Challis, Idaho (KLLJ), for example, has an elevation of 5000 feet at the north end and 5072 feet at the south. That 72-foot rise over the 4600-foot runway yields a 1.6-percent uphill slope to the south. Think about that: To depart uphill, you are asking your plane to climb a seven-story building beginning at an altitude of roughly a mile above sea level. A lot of pilots wouldn't want to do that. Unless you have a stiff tailwind, you are going to want to depart to the north, which is why the FAA's Airport/Facility Directory suggests it.

Hybrid Technique

One of the shortcomings of the PTS and most aircraft POHs is they contain a discreet technique for short-field takeoffs and a different one for a soft-field takeoff. The differences often can include have different lift-off and climb speeds and flap settings.
In my experience, short fields tend to be soft, and soft fields tend to be short. If my experience holds for others, you will need to improvise a blended technique that combines elements of each. While there may be good tribal knowledge in the community of people who fly a particular type of plane, for the most part, this knowledge is experiential.
If you are cutting it close to the aircraft performance envelope, you need to pick your abort point and an abort speed. The rule of thumb is to have 70 percent of liftoff speed by the runway's midpoint. Identify the spot and know the speed. You can't execute a planned abort without a plan.
It is shockingly common to read accident reports where the pilot needed maximum short-field performance and chose an inappropriate flap setting. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it's a check box item for the NTSB investigators arriving at a short-field mishap.
Don't conflate the full-flap setting you need to get into a short field with the setting required to get out: Chances are, it won't be full flaps. It's common for planes to require some flaps for best short-field performance. My 180 likes 20 degrees, and so did the 182 I owned before it. (My Cub doesn't have flaps, so that is a no-brainer.) The key is to follow the short-field technique in the POH.

For a truly short-field takeoff, VX always will return the greatest altitude in the shortest distance. If your short/soft-field procedure calls for some flaps, you may consider putting required flaps in part way through the ground roll in order to minimize drag and gain needed acceleration.
How your flaps are controlled is an issue, also. If yours are electric or hydraulic, they require some amount of time to extend, and may also demand attention to achieve the desired setting. Meanwhile, the Johnson Bar of my old 182 allowed me to pull in 20 degrees of flaps all at once with a single motion. Doing this after the plane had accelerated to near its flying speed literally lifts the plane into ground effect. Once you have the plane in the air, use ground effect by staying close to the ground (no more than half the wing span). It is free energy that will add to your acceleration. For a high-performance, short-field takeoff, you will want to hit VX and hold it while in ground effect. You may need to nose over a bit once the wheels leave the surface to remain in ground effect and accelerate, so be ready.

Keep Your Energy, Don't Stall

The great thing about ground effect is that you can use it for acceleration, but eventually you will need to trade that energy and every bit of power your engine can muster for a VX climb. The problem with VX is that the next lowest V number is typically one with an "s" for "stall" in it. The best angle of climb speed always is a relatively slow one and can require an uncomfortably aggressive pitch. It also can be an uncomfortable place to be while very near the ground because it is at the edge of your plane's performance envelope.
Too often, short-field accidents involve gutless planes that seem to be able to accelerate in ground effect, but once they climb beyond this free energy source, they falter and settle back to the ground. When this happens once, an abort is a smart move. If it happens twice, an abort is a really smart move. A settling airplane is one that isn't flying—it's quitting. It's better to settle back to the ground and quit than proceed beyond the airplane's ability or willingness to fly. Continuing forward is the beginning of the two words that lead to fatalities: "stall" and "spin."
If you choose to press on with an anemic climb, maintain airspeed. As the end of the runway looms closer and closer along with any attendant obstacles, it is still not too late to abort. It may result in a forward crash at VX, but that's almost always better than a stall/spin. Let me repeat that: A forward crash at VX or faster is better than a stall/spin.
Of course, VX is not a good place to be when encountering an engine issue. If you lose power, you will need to push the nose down—aggressively. That does not come naturally when you are running out of runway or the obstacle is approaching, but if you can't hold VX, put the nose down or risk that stall/spin.

What Not to Do

That make-or-break moment where the airplane isn't really wanting to fly and collision with an object is inevitable is the one when many (perhaps most) pilots make the worst possible wrong choice. The unfortunate tendency is to pull up.

Chances are you can feel pressure on the yoke or stick while holding VX. That feel of wing loading may give you the illusion that you can "pop" it over the fence or tree top. Unfortunately, that one last yank to clear the fence, tree, rock or other obstacle may put you irrecoverably behind the power curve. It is the reason why the fatality rate is so high for takeoffs when compared with landing.
Unloading the wing and dropping below VX may give you a temporary bit of energy to clear the obstacle immediately in front of you, but the next part of this Faustian deal with the aerodynamic gods is definitely going to be an ugly amount of down. There is no Bernoulli Viagra: There is no place physics can bootstrap energy to get you back up. In the words of the rapper Ice-T, "You played your self." It won't end well.
What struck me during researching this article was how preventable most short-field takeoff accidents are. In nearly every investigation I read, the contributing factors were obvious, in many cases embarrassingly so. Sure, hindsight offers great clarity, but when a simple calculation shows you need 2000 feet of good pavement and no wind, it might not be a good idea to try taking off uphill and with a tailwind from a 1500-foot grass strip.
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Colt flight with hand control

The Piper PA22-108 equipped with the hand operated rudder control is an excellent training platform for those with spinal cord injury and lower limb disability.
Once seated in the pilots seat, all systems and flight controls can be operated with left and right hands. For example: the left hand can manipulate the fuel selector, yoke, electrical systems, window and setting of instruments. The right hand: The control yoke, rudder control, wheel brakes, throttle, mixture, carb heat, radio tuning and stabilizer trim. Yes, the right hand is busy but with training and practice, air/ground operations become second nature. Myself and pilot Aaron Skibinski, were able to transition easily to flying the aircraft using the handicap control.
The control is unique in its simplicity. The rudder bar attaches with a shear pin and retaining clip. Installation takes no more than two minutes.
As for flying the aircraft, there is only one limitation when using the hand operated rudder control. Operations are limited to a maximum crosswind component of 10 knots. This limitation also requires the installation and use of shoulder harnesses. Original Colts were delivered from the factory without these but can easily be installed with aftermarket parts and an STC. One more item about the crosswind limitation... This is imposed because the normal human leg can push with approximately 150 pounds of force and the arm only 75-80 pounds.
Also, I can produce a hand control and install it with the appropriate FAA paperwork should they own a Piper PA22 series aircraft.

Piper Colt handicap flight from James Skibinski on Vimeo.

Colt rudder hand control from James Skibinski on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Finding freedom in flight | The Kingston Whig-Standard

Finding freedom in flight | The Kingston Whig-Standard
   ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
Click on the link to see the video.

While he lay in a coma following a car crash two years ago, Zach Elliott’s family struggled with how to tell him two pieces of bad news.

It was bad enough that the crash had severed his spinal column and he would, at age 18, never walk again, but his parents had to find a way to tell him he would have to give up on his life’s dream.

Since his first flight in a glider when he was 13, Elliott wanted to be a pilot. He paid his way through flight school working part time at Sweet’s Food Mart in his hometown of Seeley’s Bay.

At age 16, he had his recreational pilot’s licence and two years later he had a full private pilot’s licence.

His career goal was to be a commercial pilot.

“After his first flight, that’s what he wanted to become. He always knew what he wanted to become,” said his mother, Sue Elliott. “Then, after the accident, he was in a coma for a coupe of days and while he was out we were kind of debating how we were going to tell him not only that he couldn’t walk (but) that he couldn’t fly.”

Before he woke up, Sue Elliott and her son Jerrett searched online to find out what flying options there were for paraplegics.

The news that he could still fly helped him cope with his injuries and it set him on a new career path that will keep him flying.

After adjusting to life in a wheelchair, Zach Elliott had enrolled at King George Aviation in Surrey, B.C., the only flight school in Canada that teaches paraplegic pilots to fly using hand controls.

After getting his ultralight licence, he continued training to receive his instructor’s certification.

“I would not have imagined that I would be flying this soon again,” he said. “Two years ago, I thought, kind of, life was over.”

On Saturday, Elliott, now 20, is to host the grand opening of Ontario Advanced Ultralights, his new flight training school at the Norman Rogers Airport.

“It actually has been a blessing in disguise,” he said of his June 2013 crash. “I wouldn’t have been able to do all this if it wasn’t for the accident.

“Doing this, I get to bring the experience of flying to all other kinds of people and I get to see the joy when they try their first flight. It’s not a job at all. It gives me a lot of pride and happiness to see people enjoying what I enjoy,” he said.

Late last month, Elliott travelled to Florida to pick up and fly home a brand-new, German-made Icarus C42 advanced ultralight. The plane has been outfitted with hand controls. He explained that the only real difference is that instead of controlling the rudder with his feet, he uses a lever attached to the rudder pedals, a system he said is actually easier to use than the regular style.

The hand controls can be removed to allow able-bodied pilots to fly, and the high wings and tricycle landing gear make the C42 a great training aircraft.

Buying a new plane and launching a flight school has been an important way to cope with his spinal chord injury, said Sue Elliott.

“Being focused on something takes your focus off other things. He had something to strive for,” she said. “That’s what you really have to do in life, is find something to look forward to. Otherwise, if something tragic happens to you like that, you’re just going to become depressed.”

“I’m amazed at his hard work and determination. His drive is just like crazy,” added his father, Jerry Elliott. “I don’t think I could do it if I was him, myself, if that happened to me. It’s not held him back any; he’s just gone forward with it.

I’m just incredibly proud of him.”

Teaching others to fly gives Zach Elliott a sense of satisfaction, but he said the greatest gift of flight is the liberty it provides him.

“I get that really great sense of freedom that I don’t have to bring my wheelchair along with me,” he said.

“There is no longer a disability there. People, when they look up on the ground and they see a plane, they don’t see the wheelchair and they don’t see the disability. It gives me a sense of freedom, you know, I can just leave it behind,” he said.

“I think a lot of people find freedom in flying, but I personally find that extra little bit of freedom.”

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Living it

 Velocity and acceleration were brisk. As quickly as I sped to almost 40 mph, the surface was smooth and my pant legs billowed. Down the hill I went, enjoying myself. Without warning, instability came to visit and I was no longer in control. The paved road came to meet me in an instant. After sliding and absorbing the impact, it was quiet and I was definitely broken inside. My first instinct was to spring to my feet and find my longboard. I was able get up without the help of my limp immobile right arm. Yeah, the pain caught up and something is definitely wrong with my shoulder. What followed next at the emergency room and subsequent surgery, I will save you the details. Briefly described, I dislocated my right shoulder, broke my right arm, crushed nerves and tore tendons. Not such a great injury for a pilot. I've broken bones before but never have I been injured to this degree. In addition to the pain, loss of mobility in my right arm was not what I imagined or expected. I am right handed, so the learning curve has been steep in teaching my left side to pick up the slack. Simple everyday tasks like brushing your teeth, showering and dressing oneself is challenging. It wasn't until 2 weeks after the surgery and the pain quit demanding 100% of my attention that I was able to ponder things like work, daily responsibilities and flying.

Flying, oh boy,,, flying. How and when will I be able to go back up? The answer to that question was of course not only to be decided by me, but also my aviation medical examiner. Being stuck at home while recovering is necessary but was tough on the mind's positive outlook. Thinking about flying and when I might fly again kept me hopeful that it would be soon. During this time of recovery, my thoughts were permeated with those that have experienced significantly more disability. I have a deeper understanding now and at this moment I am still thinking heavily about those bound to wheelchairs.

As a side note, the title of this post "Living it" is not meant to compare my injuries to more severe spinal injury or loss of limbs, rather the title just describes that I am a little closer to understanding the challenges that some are faced with.

From the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, I would like to share an excerpt about depression after paralysis. It is my firm belief that life after paralysis can be vibrant, happy and definitely worth living. I also believe activities (including learning to fly) can save the mind and push away depression.

"Depression is common among people who are paralyzed, but it's not normal -- becoming discouraged, grief-stricken or sad is normal, but depression represents a condition that is a health problem unto itself. Most forms of depression, however, can be treated. While about 10 percent of the U.S. non-disabled population is said to be moderately or severely depressed, research shows that about 20 to 30 percent of people with long-term disabilities have a depressive condition. Depression affects a person in many ways. It involves major changes in mood, outlook, ambition, problem solving, activity level and bodily processes (sleep, energy and appetite). It affects health and wellness: People with a disability who are depressed may not look after themselves; they may not drink enough water, take care of their skin, manage their diet. It affects one's social world. Friends and families are tuned out. Depressed people can't find pleasure, success or meaning. Substance abuse may develop. Thoughts of suicide often occur when things look most hopeless. In spinal cord injury, for example, risk is highest in the first five years after the injury. Other risk factors include dependence on alcohol or drugs, lack of a spouse or close support network, access to lethal means, or a previous suicide attempt. People who've tried to kill themselves before are likely to try again. The most important factors in preventing suicide are spotting depression early, getting the right treatments for it, and instilling problem solving skills. Many factors contribute to depression. These may include the effects of disability -- pain, fatigue, changes in body image, shame, and loss of independence. Other life events, such as divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a job or financial problems can also lead to or magnify depression. There are effective ways for helping people cope with the stresses of paralysis. Life is worth living, despite what health professionals are sometimes prone to judge: According to a Colorado survey, 86 percent of SCI high-level quadriplegics rated their quality of life as average or better than average, while only 17 percent of their ER doctors, nurses, and technicians thought they would have an average or better quality of life if they acquired quadriplegia. If you are depressed, get help, including professional counseling or participation in a support group. An active lifestyle can also help to break through depression."

For more information, please check out the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

Yep, that's me with my arm brace removed thinking about the next time I can go up.