|Charles Stites, Able Flight founder, shakes hands with Eric Ingram Tuesday after awarding him pilots wings. Kevin Crombie (left), Jermaine Strachan (right), and Korel Cudmore (not pictured) also received wings. PHOTO BY MARIANO ROSALES
In a ConocoPhillips Plaza ceremony Tuesday morning, Able Flight awarded sport pilot wings to four of its newest pilots. Able Flight, which uses light-sport aircraft to train people with disabilities to earn their sport pilot certificate, also recognized Paul Lampasso, the first recipient of its Career Training Scholarship, for completing his light sport repairman certificate with maintenance rating through Rainbow Aviation in California. Aaron Michaels was named Able Flight instructor of the year.
Eric Ingram, Kevin Crombie, SPC Jermaine Strachan, and Korel Cudmore traveled to Purdue University this summer for Able Flight’s second joint flight-training project with the university’s Department of Aviation Technology. They were immersed in an intensive training regimen of one or more flight lessons per day along with classroom study for the knowledge test.
Eric, who has used a wheelchair since he was a child as the result of a rare genetic disorder, and Kevin, paralyzed at only 9 months old, trained in a Sky Arrow. The aircraft was rented from Sean O’Donnell, the second scholarship winner to earn his certificate in 2007, and now operator of his own flight school for people with disabilities.
“We’ve had a number of people licensed in his adapted airplane, including these two here,” Able Flight founder Charles Stites said. “We’re very happy to see that going back into one of our scholarship winners’ companies.”
Korel, who is Able Flight’s first deaf pilot, and Jermaine, a two-time recipient of a Purple Heart for combat injuries received in Iraq, trained in a Flight Design CT provided by Peak Aviation. The CT also has been outfitted with hand controls and will be used by Able Flight in the future.
It was important to have an aircraft with side-by-side seating so Korel could communicate with her instructor through hand signals, lip reading, and written notes, Charles said. She communicated with the tower through light signals.
“I’m not going to lie. Coming from the Army to coming here, this is a little bit harder,” Jermaine said. “I was more nervous about this than anything else. I was nervous about flying. But after a while you get used to it.”
Stites created Able Flight in 2006 based on a similar program in England. He worked with EAA, and in 2007 the first group of scholarship winners trained at Wittman Regional Airport. They received their wings at AirVenture that year, and now 19 Able Flight scholarship winners have earned their sport pilot certificate.
Learn more about the organization at http://AbleFlight.org.