October 6, 2015

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.


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.