Friday, August 21, 2015

Flight Training for those with Disability


America’s sons and daughters recovering from injuries sustained in service also need activities to support mental well being. Aero-Flight provides a flight training opportunity for Disabled Veterans to support positive mental and physical capabilities as they restore their sense of selves.

Learning to Fly aircraft supports drive and determination of these service members— builds their strength, skills and confidence and return them to the highest level of physical, emotional and psychological functional ability. A major goal is to enable the Service Members to make their own choices and not let their futures be dictated by the injuries sustained.

Much can be accomplished with major disabilities. For example, Ms. Dorine Bourneton, a long-time champion of the rights of disabled people and a paraplegic herself, has performed aerobatic displays in a modified Mudry CAP 10 aircraft.

Another inspiring story is about Rod Sage. He writes, "When I was first in the hospital, I couldn't even put my socks on, let alone fly an airplane. "I never thought I'd fly again."  The victim of an industrial accident, Rod was an avid pilot before a fall broke his back and landed him in a wheelchair. Soon, however, he was learning to cope with his disability, and within eight months he was back at the controls of his airplane.

Concerning rehabilitation of our Veterans, consider Sgt. Adam Kisielewski's accomplishments. When a door rigged with explosives in Iraq cost Sgt. Adam Kisielewski his left arm at the shoulder and his right leg below the knee, becoming a pilot wasn’t even a dream induced by the painkillers that were soon coursing through his body.  It was August 21, 2005, and for Adam, each minute was a time for survival, not dreams.  Adam struggled to make it back from the blast that not only left him critically wounded, but took the life of a fellow Marine on the mission. From emergency treatment in the field to being airlifted to Bethesda and Walter Reed for treatment and rehabilitation, he  faced a series of challenges that many would have found insurmountable. Several years ago, Adam was awarded his first Able Flight Scholarship. With that scholarship he became a Sport Pilot by training in a Flight Design CT. Later, with his 3rd class medical certificate approved, Able Flight made it possible for him to earn his Private Pilot Certificate. Now, not only will he be able to take his whole family on vacations, he’ll be able to fly himself on business trips, a freedom not even imaginable only a few years ago.

Bill Blackwood, a military pilot was disabled after ejection from a fighter jet.  When the seat fired, the vertebrae in his back compressed and forced the T12 vertebra out of his spinal column. He was paraplegic while still strapped to the seat. After six months, Blackwood was transferred to the VA hospital in Long Beach, Calif., for rehab. It appeared his flying days were over, so he entered the field of real estate. In 1965, he heard about another para who was flying with hand controls. He contacted the other person, and they flew together. Blackwood realized he could get back into the love of his life: flying. A year of development and testing brought forth the hand control, which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved. The Blackwood hand control has opened the doors for several hundred paras, quads, and amputees.

Our hand control for the Piper PA22 is similar to the Blackwood design and can open doors for the Disabled.

At this time, our aircraft is FAA approved, we have an instructor and mechanic. What we need now most of all is to get the word out that this opportunity is available to our Disabled Veterans.

As of this writing, filing for Non-Profit tax exempt status is in process. We hope to make this opportunity as affordable as possible for our Veterans and other disabled pilots. We are also looking for a lightweight "break-down" type wheelchair for pre-flights. A light weight break down wheelchair allows loading into the baggage compartment.

Thank you for your time and for reading this.

James Skibinski

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