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Able Flight, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is a charitable organization founded in 2006 by nonprofit executive and aviation media figure Charles Stites “to offer people with disabilities a unique way to challenge themselves through flight and aviation career training, and by doing so, to gain greater self-confidence and self-reliance.”
As Able Flight’s executive director, Stites designed a scholarship program to make that challenge available to people with disabilities by offering joint flight training courses with Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
The Able Flight class of 2020 consisted of 10 individuals from around the United States—some of whose long-awaited opportunities to fly have been further complicated by an unforeseen adversary: the coronavirus pandemic.
As the nation celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July, we checked in with past graduates of Able Flight’s scholarship program in hopes of hearing a shot of news from aviation’s front lines and some words of inspiration to share with others who may be trying to map out life’s plan in light of a life-changing event.
We were not disappointed. Sean ODonnell of Pennsylvania and Justin Falls of North Carolina are Able Flight alumni who earned their pilot certificates and are forging into the future—two adaptive-aviation pioneers whose efforts to fulfill their dreams have blazed a trail for others to follow.
Sean ODonnell, Class of 2007
Any FBO or flight instructor should pay attention and probably take notes when ODonnell, who took his Able Flight training in 2007, talks about giving a passenger a ride in his two-place tandem light-sport pusher-prop-driven Sky Arrow with adaptive hand controls—because what he is describing is the perfect introductory flight. Not just the route, the length of the flight, and the sightseeing selections he uses—the intro starts on the ground and covers all the bases in an easy-to-process presentation to make the passenger feel involved and at ease. ODonnell gauges how much interest the passenger has in the nitty-gritty, and if it seems appropriate, he will demonstrate some mild maneuvers and perhaps cap the flight with a power-off landing. He’s always on the lookout for negative small-airplane myths to dispel—and when he spots one, he is “more than happy to engage that person,” he said, adding, “All fear stems from lack of knowledge.”
ODonnell was the second Able Flight scholarship award recipient and
This post was originally published by AOPA on . Please visit the original post to read the complete article.