October 28, 2016

2016 Able Flight Pilots Get Their Wings

OSH 2016 Wings wide DanielsAble Flight had a full house on stage for our annual Wings Pinning ceremony at EAA AirVenture on July 26th, 2016.  On hand to congratulate the new pilots were family and friends, Able Flight sponsors, and special guest Patty Wagstaff, member of the Aviation Hall of Fame.

Pilots receiving their Able Flight Wings were Chris Sullivan, Johnny Ragsdale, Scott Earley, Shavon McGlynn, Justin Falls, Ethan Daffron, Bernard Dime, and Trevor Denning. Also honored were Shafeeq Moore  who will complete training in 2017, and Sgt. Adam Kisielweski (USMC-retired) who earned his Instrument rating this year with support of a career Flight Training scholarship from Able Flight.  Also  attending were flight instructors from Purdue, and Wesley Major, an Able Flight pilot from the Class of 2012 who is now a graduate student at Purdue and has served as the program’s onsite volunteer coordinator for four years.

 The ceremony also marked the 10th anniversary since the founding of Able Flight in May of 2006. Since July of 2007, Able Flight has awarded over 70 scholarships including flight training and aviation career training scholarships.
 The following pilots were selected as the recipients of named scholarships:
Johnny Ragsdale: Recipient of the Tempest/Able Flight Scholarship: Wings pinned by John and Arlene Herman
Justin Falls:  Recipient of the Shell Aviation/Able Flight Scholarship-Wings pinned by Stephane Cicollela and Paul Royko
Shavon McGlynn: Recipient of the Jet Aviation/Able Flight Scholarship: Wings pinned by Patty Wagstaff
Bernard Dime: Recipient of the Bombardier/Able Flight Scholarship: Wings pinned by Mark Sirbinski
Trevor Denning: Recipient of the ForeFlight/Able Flight Scholarship: Wings pinned by Tyson Weihs and Gus Bustillo
Sgt. Chris Sullivan’s Wings were pinned by Sgt. Adam Kisielewski
Scott Earley’s Wings were pinned by his wife Hyla

Ethan Daffron was honored as the recipient of the Tyrell Rhodes Memorial Scholarship and his Able Flight Wings were pinned by Charles Stites.

Brian Stirm of Purdue University was honored as the 2016 recipient of the Seidel Award given to those who provide outstanding volunteer service to Able Flight. Each year, Brian donates many hours to maintain the training aircraft used in our program at Purdue. Presenting the award was last year’s recipient, Chris Throndsen.

Special thanks to Andrew Ovans and Dick Knapinski of EAA for their assistance with the ceremony, and to Wayne Daniels for the photos.


Class of 2016 is Almost Done!


Able Flight pilot Bernard Dime with instructor

It’s been almost two months since our “Class of 2016” arrived at Purdue, and as of July 11th, seven have already become licensed pilots.  Not only has this year’s class been our largest ever, it meant that we needed nine instructors and five planes to keep them in the air every day that weather has allowed them to fly. In fact, they have often flown twice a day with classroom sessions in between.

By the time the last flight touches down, they will have logged over 330 hours of instruction, requiring approximately 1600 hundred gallons of Swift Fuels UL94 avgas, numerous oil changes, and great support by Brian Stirm of Purdue’s maintenance staff.

Our thanks to the  following owners of the planes we rented this year for our students: Sean O’Donnell, Hansen Air Group, Purdue University, the estate of Joe D’Aguair and Racine Sport Flyers.

With the hard work of everyone involved, the results have been outstanding, and in just a few weeks, this year’s pilots will be receiving their Able Flight Wings at EAA AirVenture.
Able Flight Wings Pinning Ceremony on Tuesday July 26th 11AM 
on the main concert stage in Boeing Plaza at EAA AirVenture

Record Setting Number of Scholarships!

Johnny Ragland of North Carolina

Johnny Ragland of NC

In its 10th anniversary year, Able Flight has awarded a record-setting eight scholarships so that people with disabilities can become licensed pilots. The recipients of the 2016 flight training scholarships come from throughout the country and face challenges from a variety of physical disabilities.

This year’s class will train at Able Flight’s program at Purdue University and includes seven people who use wheelchairs due to the effects of injuries, and a young woman who is deaf.

Receiving scholarships are Johnny Ragland and Justin Falls of North Carolina, Ethan Daffron of Indiana, Scott Earley of Florida, Shafeeq Moore of Georgia, Bernard Dime of Arizona, Trevor Denning of Texas, and Shavon McGlynn of New York.

Able Flight’s Charles Stites said, “When I have the pleasure of calling to notify applicants of their awards, I tell them that they are about to embark on a journey that will change their lives forever. Our program is demanding and challenging, and that’s because we work with our partners at Purdue’s Department of Aviation Technology to make it so. When our students become licensed pilots, they know they have earned it.”

This is the seventh consecutive year of Able Flight’s partnership with Purdue, and the graduates of the “Class of 2016” will be guests of honor when they receive their Able Flight Wings on stage at EAA AirVenture on Tuesday, July 26th at 11a.m., just weeks after becoming licensed pilots.

Randy Green: Happily Defying Other’s Expectations

IMG_3390For a man who was born without hands or feet, Randy Green looks at what others may see as challenges as just another opportunity to prove his abilities.  On March 4th, 2016, he added another major accomplishment to his list of aviation achievements when he earned a career-changing King Air 300 series type rating.

In 2015, Randy received an Able Flight Career Scholarship to earn his Air Transport rating (ATP). That scholarship was made possible through the support of ForeFlight. Now with another Able Flight Career Scholarship made possible by the very generous donation of NC-based training facility FlyRight, and with additional funding provided by the TBMOPA Foundation, Randy continues to move up the business aviation ladder.
The King Air type rating is considered  by those who have earned it as one of the more difficult ones to master,  and the more than two week course at FlyRight is demanding, both in the classroom and in their Class D simulator. Randy is quick to note that earning his type rating was considerably more difficult than earning his ATP rating, and the fact that he did both in less than a year speaks to his willingness to put in the long hours it takes to achieve advanced ratings.

Now, this father of two young girls will be in search of an opportunity to use his new King Air rating to continue to provide for his family through his aviation career. He has come a long way from his first hours in the Ercoupe that his late father bought so that Randy and his brother could become pilots. But there’s no doubt that with Randy Green, there are more successes to come.

Our congratulations to Randy on his outstanding achievement!


Tyrell Rhodes Memorial Scholarship

Tyrell in planeFor more than two years, Able Flight pilot Tyrell Rhodes fought cancer with great spirit and optimism, traits he displayed throughout his 21 years. On Friday morning, September 4th,  2015, with his family at his side, Ty passed away.

A lifetime of dealing with Cerebral Palsy never held him back as Ty accomplished goal after goal, including living his dream when he earned his pilot’s license through Able Flight in 2012. Raised by a single mom who serves as a Master Sergeant in the Air Force, Ty spent his life around airplanes, always looking up, and always dreaming of someday being in the cockpit looking down. Time after time he faced obstacles placed in his path by people who told him what they thought he couldn’t do, but he never gave in to the negative. That wasn’t Ty. Throughout high school he was known for studying books on flying whenever he had a spare minute, and then he discovered Able Flight, and in his scholarship application essay he wrote:

“I’ve been mesmerized by planes since I was a toddler. I remember
lying on my trampoline, watching planes fly by for hours, saying to myself “Wow, that’s what 1 want
to do.” Every year we attend the local air show and I’ve never gotten tired of seeing the precise
formations of the Thunderbirds, or ducking as the heritage flight screamed by me. At a young age, I
knew I was born to fly!
At the age of two I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. I wore braces and used a walker. One day, I
saw the movie Forrest Gump which inspired me. I watched the movie many times and wanted to be
like Forrest. Like him, I would run out of my braces and go on to do great things. With the bar set
high, I was determined to one day soar above the clouds, like the jets I saw from my own backyard.”

Able Flight was created for people like Ty, and with your help in establishing  the Tyrell Rhodes Memorial Scholarship, we can make it possible for another person to leave their disability behind as they take control of a plane and become a licensed pilot.


Please donate to help reach the goal of $10,000 to fund a scholarship in his memory for 2016.

Simply visit our Donation  page and enter  the amount you wish to give and add Tyrell’s name under “Dedication”.


Thanks to the following donors who have supported the Tyrell Rhodes Memorial Scholarship:

Matt Brandon, Rita Brandon, Eric Cox, Patrick Del Selva, Rick Dorsey, Emily Edmunds, Jeffrey Goldberg and Allsion Black, John Herman, Allen Horsens, Leslie Hunt, Ted Klapka, Nicholas Losande, Gregory Malott, John Morgan, Justin Pascoe,  Tony Passannante, Candi & Dave Reiheld, Jessica Scharle, Bob Seidel, Alexander Smith, Christopher Stewart, Charles Stites, Mark Susnis, Ron Vanderhei, Arnold White, Bernie Wulle, 458th Airlift Squadron

Able Flight Pilot Lost To Cancer

Tyrell RhodesFor the past two years, Tyrell Rhodes faced cancer with a determination and an optimism that were typical of the young man who had been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was only two. In the early hours of September 4th, and with family by his side, Ty passed away at age 21. Though we announce this loss with great sadness, what we choose to remember was not the struggle he endured with little complaint, but instead his joy in becoming a licensed pilot through Able Flight.

Ty was the perfect example of someone who lived his dream by earning the right to experience the freedom of flight. He was a member of our Class of 2012 which trained at Purdue, and later, Able Flight continued to support his plan of a lifetime in aviation with scholarships to support his college training in aviation studies.  In his memory, Able Flight is creating the Tyrell Rhodes Memorial Scholarship to be funded through private donations.

We ask for your support by making a donation of any amount in his name. With your help, the legacy of this remarkable young man will live on, allowing others to face their own challenges and become a pilot.

To support the Tyrell Rhodes Memorial Scholarship please donate here.

And to learn more about Ty, including what this meant to him in his own words, visit here.

Able Flight Pilots Honored at AirVenture

Able Flight pilot Stephen carrier receives his wings.

Stephen Carrier is pinned by Arlene Herman.

It was a beautiful Oshkosh morning on July 21st as family, friends and sponsors honored six new Able Flight pilots at EAA AirVenture. The pilots receiving their Able Flight Wings were John Robinson of NC, Raymart Tinio of CA, Sgt. Adam Kisielewski of MD, Stephen Carrier of LA, Scot Abrams of NY and Randy Green of ID.

The ceremony also marked the first pinning of wings by sponsors Tempest and ForeFlight who have each committed to a three year sponsorship.  Taking part in the ceremony for Tempest were Arlene and John Herman who pinned wings on Stephen Carrier. Pinning wings on Randy Green, the first recipient of the ForeFlight/Able Flight Scholarship was Tyson Weihs,  co-founder and CEO of ForeFlight.

Also on hand  for the ceremony were Mark Baker, President of AOPA who pinned the wings of AOPA/Able Flight Scholarship recipient Sgt. Adam Kisielewski, Aviation Hall of Fame member Patty Wagstaff who pinned the wings of Jet Aviation/Able Flight Scholarship recipient Scot Abrams, Matt Brandon who pinned the wings of Bombardier/Able Flight Scholarship recipient Raymart Tinio,  and Rodney Eckert and Paul Royko  who pinned the wings of Shell Aviation/Able Flight Scholarship recipient John Robinson.

Chris Throndsen with Bob Seidel

Chris Throndsen with Bob Seidel

Able Flight pilot Jessica Cox presented  the volunteer of the year award (Seidel Award) to Chris Throndsen in recognition of her outstanding and continuous service in support of the program. Selected as the 2015 Flight Instructor of the year was Purdue University Student Cory Morgan, and accepting on his behalf was Professor Bernie Wulle of the university’s Department of Aviation Technology.

During the ceremony Able Flight was honored as the recipient of  the Flying Magazine Editors’ Choice Award for 2014  presented by the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Robert Goyer.


Wounded Marine Earns New Pilot’s License

Sgt. Adam Kisielewski as pilot in command

Sgt. Adam Kisielewski as pilot in command

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.

It was a defining time for the young man from Wisconsin who had enlisted after 9/11 and had previously been selected to provide contingency security for the President at Camp David before being deployed near Fallujah, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. But in the years since his injury, Adam has not only survived, but thrived. He and his wife are raising their young son, he has completed college, and he works for a nonprofit that helps other wounded veterans.

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 at the Frederick, MD airport with instructors Dave Hirschman and Dean Stickell. Later, with his 3rd class medical certificate approved, Able Flight made it possible for him to earn his Private Pilot Certificate training in a Diamond DA-40. 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.


Able Flight Annual Benefit A Resounding Success

1940 Air Terminal Museum

1940 Air Terminal Museum

2015 party #1Over 100 supporters and sponsors of Able Flight joined eight returning pilots in Houston on May 29th to celebrate another year of success and to raise funds for new scholarships. The event was held in the historic 1940 Air Terminal Museum located on Houston’s Hobby Airport. Attending were Able Flight pilots Jessica Scharle,  Eric Ingram, Curtis Stanley, Jeremy Maddox, Jason Jernigan, Dennis Akins, Ryan Kelly, and Sean O’Donnell.

Also on hand were guests from sponsors Tempest, ForeFlight, and Shell Aviation; each was recognized at the event for their three-year commitment to funding scholarships. Other guests included Sebastian Heintz of Zenith Aircraft, Desiree Czaplinski of Aircraft Spruce, Ben Sclair of General Aviation News, and Julia Spicer and Steve Merritt from Able Flight’s Board of Directors.

Following time to mingle and explore the museum, guests were treated to dinner before a spirited auction in which all items were sold to benefit the scholarship program. Able Flight would like to thank the following for their generous gifts for the auction:  Mimi Stewart, Shell Aviation, Patty Wagstaff, Kevin and Angie Tipton, Landmark Aviation, Sennheiser, ForeFlight, Sam Lyons Studios, mypilotstore.com,  Jim Benton of Houston, Dynon,  Abingdon Co., Aircraft Spruce,  and Gulf Coast Avionics.  The Paul Thorn Band performed after the auction, bringing the special evening to a close.

The benefit was fully sponsored by Sennheiser USA, Landmark Aviation, and Universal Weather & Aviation, so that all proceeds from the auction and donations could go directly to the scholarship program. Auction proceeds and donations set a record of just over $50,000. Our thanks to everyone who made our 2015 benefit such a success.

The Amazing Story Of Randy Green

Randy Green in cockpit of twin

Randy Green

In April, Randy Green passed a check ride to earn his Air Transport Rating, the highest level a pilot can achieve. And though it’s a select group of those who have reached this status, it’s not rare. Except for a man born without hands or feet.

Randy’s remarkable aviation career began when his pilot father bought an Ercoupe so that his sons could learn to fly. He earned his Private certificate in 1994 and quickly followed with Instrument, Commercial and Flight Instructor ratings. In his first year of instructing he logged over 1000 hours teaching others to fly. Using no special prosthetic devices on his arms to help him manipulate the controls, he continued to add to his ratings becoming qualified to both fly and instruct in twin-engine aircraft. And of course,  to fly as a Commercial pilot, Randy needed a second class medical and several Statement of Demonstrated Ability (SODA) flights with the FAA to prove he could safely operate all controls on various airplanes.

From the beginning, Randy’s goal wasn’t to fly an airliner, he wanted to be a corporate pilot, and he followed his plan of building hours and ratings until he was a good candidate for a job transporting company executives and their customers.  But even with his accomplishments and obvious qualifications, he faced a multitude of challenges and denials until  landing that first job; when a company took a leap of faith that was well-rewarded. And when that business sold their plane, he soon found another job flying a Cessna 421 twin for a Missouri company. Randy Green with Cessna 421

Randy knew that to move up in business aviation he would need an ATP rating. Enter Able Flight. With his Able Flight Career Training Scholarship,  in late April of 2015 Randy Green completed training at a Texas flight school and passed yet another flight test, and has now accepted a new position flying for an Idaho-based business.  That means a move for Randy, his wife and two young children; a move they are willing to make to continue his dream of using his aviation career to provide for his family.

Randy’s story of success is a testament to a father who knew what his son was capable of , and to a son who believed in himself.  Congratulations to our newest Able Flight pilot, Randy Green.