June 30, 2015

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.


Able Flight Class of 2015 Selected

With seven new awards, Able Flight continues to fulfill its mission of providing flight training scholarships for people with disabilities. The 2015 flight training scholarship recipients come from throughout the country and face challenges from a variety of disabilities.

This year’s class includes three veterans who were wounded or injured either during service or afterwards, a young man who is deaf, and several people who use wheelchairs due to paralysis. Six of the students will take part in Able Flight’s joint training program with Purdue University’s Department of Aviation Technology, and the seventh will earn an advanced certificate at another location.

In a first for Able Flight, scholarship recipient Randy Green of Missouri will train for his ATP certificate. Green was born without hands or feet and is already a Commercial pilot and CFI. He will train at a facility in Texas.

Receiving scholarships to train at Purdue are Scot Abrams of New York, a former Marine who was serving as a police officer and was paralyzed in an accident while on duty, Stephen Carrier of Louisiana who became paralyzed in a motor vehicle accident, James Lowman, a retired Army veteran and helicopter pilot from North Carolina who was severely injured during combat operations in Iraq, Bernard Dime of Arizona who was paralyzed in a skydiving accident,  Raymart Tinio of California who is deaf, and John Robinson of North Carolina who is a Navy veteran who was paralyzed in an auto accident.

Adam Kisielewski check ride

Sgt. Adam Kisielewski

In addition to this year’s recipients, wounded veteran Sgt. Adam Kisielewski (U.S Marines-retired) of Maryland will train for his private pilot certificate. Kisielewski earned his Sport Pilot certificate through Able Flight in 2012 and was awarded a scholarship to upgrade to Private Pilot in 2014 and will complete his training this year.

Able Flight’s Charles Stites said, “Our class of 2015 will soon experience the demanding and intensive program we have designed with our partners at Purdue University. This will be our sixth year working with Purdue, and our graduates of that program will be guests of honor when they receive their Able Flight Wings on stage at EAA AirVenture just weeks after becoming licensed pilots. Our thanks go to all of our generous sponsors and donors who make this unique program possible.”

Able Flight Receives Award

AF students & instructors 2014Able Flight has been selected as the 2014 recipient of the Flying Magazine Editors’ Choice Award to honor an aviation nonprofit.

In their announcement, the magazine wrote: “There is no shortage of organizations using general aviation to effect positive change in the world, and the many that do so on an everyday basis in places near and far serve as a continual testament to the power and generosity of this great community of fliers and flying enthusiasts. While there are countless aviation charities that deserve recognition, we are proud to award Flying‘s 2014 Editors’ Choice Award to Able Flight, an organization that helps disabled individuals pursue aviation training and in the process enjoy the life-changing challenges and fulfillment that come along with it.”

“We are honored to be selected to receive the Flying Magazine Editors’ Choice Award”, said Charles Stites of Able Flight. “There are a number of great aviation nonprofits doing outstanding work, and this award signifies that Able Flight  is recognized as not only fulfilling its mission of using the power of aviation to change lives, but  consistently doing so at the highest level. Those who deserve credit for this honor include our pilots who work so hard to prove their abilities, the flight instructors and our friends at  Purdue University who welcome and teach our pilots, and the sponsors and donors whose generous support make it all possible.”


To read more about the award, visit here.


New Able Flight Pilots Get Their Wings

Patty Wagstaff pins Sgt. Jason Gibson's Able Flight Wings.

Patty Wagstaff pins Sgt. Jason Gibson’s Able Flight Wings.

With special guests Patty Wagstaff, famed airshow pilot Alan Henley, and AOPA President Mark Baker there to do the honors,  four new Able Flight pilots received their wings at a July 29th ceremony at EAA AirVenture. Curtis Stanley, Jason Gibson, Ellen Howards and Tim Klemm were on stage in Boeing Plaza before a crowd of more than 100 friends and sponsors of Able Flight on a beautiful Oshkosh morning.

Also attending were Purdue flight instructors Nick Losande, Thomas Keiffer,  and Lucero Duran. In a surprise announcement, Duran and Paczolt were named Able Flight’s “Instructors of the Year” for 2014 with Duran’s award presented by Bernie Wulle and John Wensveen of Purdue University.

During the ceremony Ellen Howards was named the recipient of the AOPA/Able Flight Scholarship and her wings were pinned by AOPA President Mark Baker. Tim Klemm was selected to be the first recipient of the Shell Aviation/Able Flight Scholarship in honor of Alan Henely, and Henley was there to pin Tim’s wings. Selected as the 2014 recipient of the Bombardier/Able Flight Scholarship was Curtis Stanley, and there to pin his wings was Matt Brandon of Bombardier.

Each of the new pilots also received a free headset from Able Flight sponsor Sennheiser, and the headsets were presented by Chris Throndsen of Sennheiser.

Other special guests included Able Flight pilots Deirdre Dacey and Sean O’Donnell, and sponsors Tyson Weihs, Jason Miller and Angela Anderson of ForeFlight, Bob Stangerone of Embraer, and Jim Irwin and Desiree Czaplinski of Aircraft Spruce.

Able Flight Pilot Featured on CBS This Morning

Ryan Kelly was serving in  the Army in Iraq when an IED took his right leg below the knee.  During his recovery at Walter Reed he was visited by a pilot who used a prosthetic leg, and that was all the inspiration he needed to use aviation to rebuild his life.

He is now a Medevac pilot  flying an air ambulance helicopter in Texas. And with his Able Flight  scholarships, he has become a fixed wing Private Pilot and will soon have his commercial and multi-engine ratings.  CBS Morning News profiled Ryan in a feature on Memorial Day, 2014. Watch his amazing story of returning from a catastrophic injury to working to save the lives of others.

Able Flight has now helped seven other wounded veterans like Ryan become pilots, and three more wounded or disabled veterans are in training right now. If you want to help Able Flight help others like Ryan, please donate to our scholarship fund.