Tuesday, January 13, 2015

High Flying Dreams

(See below- Shad Dahlgren is shown with Inspector Jacob Wilson after his
successful Private Pilot Check Ride)
Shad Dahlgren grew up in rural Nebraska on a farm near Bertrand.
His family instilled the work ethic of Middle America in all
their children and they were a close, supportive family. As a
boy, Shad loved to watch the aerobatic spray planes and crop
dusters make their wild and rolling turns as they flew over the
golden fields of Nebraska. He knew these pilots personally. In
1979, Shad’s father hired a helicopter pilot to move two old
grain bins to another farm. It was a mega event for people all
over and it made a life long impression on Shad. By the time he
was 16, Shad decided it was time for him to learn how to fly.
Because there were no opportunities in Bertrand for flying lessons,
he drove the 30-some miles to Lexington, Nebraska, to
take lessons from Dennis McDaniels in a Cessna 152. Being in
the air and piloting an airplane was bringing Shad’s dream into
reality. He had 10 hours completed and was nearing his time to
solo when an unfortunate accident took place.
On June 3, 1990, as Shad and his girlfriend drove down one of
the many gravel roads in Nebraska, Shad suddenly lost control
of his car and the vehicle rolled. Shad’s girlfriend was all right,
but Shad was paralyzed. He spent the next three months in a
hospital. He left in a wheelchair. His doctor described the injury
as an “incomplete break” of his spine. With this type of
spinal injury, Shad still has some feeling in his feet. Someday,
with as yet undiscovered technology, it may still become possible
for Shad to walk again. But for that moment, flying no
longer held the same priority for Shad.
Shad moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, and enrolled at the University
of Nebraska. He majored in general agriculture and graduated
in 1997. He quickly took a position with Settje Agricultural
Services in Raymond, Nebraska, as an Agricultural Engineer.
Shad’s new job with Settje would prove to be a fortuitous move!
One of Settje’s co-owners, Dale Leffers, learned of Shad’s deep
passion for aviation. Dale told Shad that he should contact his
son, Bryan Leffers, who works at Duncan Aviation. Others at
Settje encouraged Shad to call Bryan. Shad had heard of Duncan
Aviation. He knew it was a large aviation company specializing
in jets and performing many different services for aircraft
operators. His dream of flying had never died; it remained in his
heart. Shad spent much of his time learning more and more
about aviation. He would read and watch aviation documentaries
on TV. He surfed the Internet examining aviation history,
especially World War II history. He learned how World War II,
through necessity, made the American Aviation industry the
greatest in the world with warplanes like the Grumman F6F
Hellcat. Shad learned that the Hellcat ruled the Pacific after its
introduction in 1943. His longing and aviation enthusiasm was
unstoppable. He called Bryan Leffers. Bryan told Shad he
needed to tell Harry Barr about his love of flying.
Shad called Harry on Ash Wednesday 2006. Harry invited
Shad to his workshop but Harry wasn’t able to make it there that
day. It didn’t matter though because the invitation put Shad
back with the people he knew best, flyers. Shad met Harry’s
good friend, master craftsman, Jimmy Debus. Over the next
several weeks, Shad met many more of Harry’s aviation pals:
Steve Mountain, Ed Bowes and Dan Rees. These were guys
who spoke Shad’s language. Shad felt right at home and soon
got his chance to meet Harry. They talked about Shad’s dream
of flying and Harry felt he had an answer that might help Shad
get into the pilot’s seat again. Harry believed that a Piper Colt
would probably be the best airplane for a paraplegic and he
didn’t see Shad’s disability as anything more than a speed
bump on the way to becoming a pilot. The Colt had a unique
hand brake that would help make it easier to convert into an
airplane Shad could control with his hands. It also allowed for
easier entrance into the cab for Shad. After adapting a bar to
fasten to the rudder controls (push for right, pull for left), fashioning
a harness so Shad could brace his body against the
pressure of using his arms for every control and filing an FAA
Form 337 with the FAA to approve the temporary modifications,
the Colt was ready for testing.
After many instructional flights with Harry and Logan Flood,
Shad was ready for his solo flight on May 30, 2007. He soared
along with the Colt and made a successful solo flight. Shad’s
aviation dream, which started as a young boy, had become
reality! The spirit of aviation comes from those who wish to help
others with the drive to succeed and move past the cutting edge
into new frontiers and new innovation. The key ingredient is the
wonderful camaraderie that those who love aviation share.
Shortly before Shad met Harry, his family purchased a ranch.
The new ranch nearly pulled Shad from his aviation dream because
he felt like moving home and contributing there. Had he
followed that course, his opportunities for flight would have
been severely restricted. But something told him he wasn’t
finished in Lincoln, Nebraska, yet. Maybe it’s an aviation sixth
sense, but then intuition can often keep dreams alive, especially
when they beat as hard as they do in a heart such as Shad
Today Shad owns that Piper Colt. He plans to use it to cut
down travel time to the ranch and his family. Shad has even
said he might just build a landing strip for his Colt on his family’s
ranch! As much as any aviation pioneer who came before him,
Shad Dahlgren’s drive and determination have led to a success
that can only be measured by the human spirit.
(Courtesy of Duncan Aviation

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