March 18, 2014

Wounded Air Force Vet Becomes Pilot

Air Force veteran Tony Pizzifred

Tony Pizzifred is a member of a very select group, a distinction he’d rather not have. In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the number of Air Force veterans who were wounded in combat is quite small compared to the other services. But on March 13, 2004, while serving as an MP at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan,  the eight-year veteran stepped on a landmine and lost his left leg below the knee.

Remarkably, after rehabilitation and therapy, Tony returned to duty in the Middle East as the first Air Force MP amputee to do so. Now  working at Cape Canaveral in rocket launch operations, Tony has achieved another milestone, that of becoming a pilot.

He first began to learn to fly in Texas, and then at Voyager Aviation in Florida. At Voyager he was approaching the last weeks of instruction when he ran short of funds and applied for a scholarship from Able Flight. With his scholarship he completed his training and passed his check ride on May 13th.

During his training Tony flew a Jabiru 230 LSA  at the Merritt Island, FL airport,  a location that allowed him to squeeze in a lesson in the evenings after his work day at Canaveral. His first instructor  at Voyager was Danny Morris, and he completed the last hours with the school’s chief flight instructor, Patti Vest.

Of the special day when he took his check ride, Tony said, “Finishing my check ride has put all of my training and practice into play. There was so much going on during the check ride that I didn’t realize it was over!! Since the check ride I’ve taken my first passenger with me, and I’ll tell you that it’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever had, to know that you’re doing something that most aren’t able to even imagine they could do is awesome! With Able Flight it made the end of my training go with little worry… (There was enough with the check ride alone!!!).

“Every thing that my two instructors had said, showed me or corrected me on was still in my head during and after the check ride, and to be honest, during every landing, I can still hear Danny saying ‘right rudder’… The greatest part of all this, is that I now know that there is nothing that can stop me from doing what I put my mind to! Thanks again to Able Flight and all the aviators like Able Flight pilot and wounded veteran Ryan Kelly and LT. Col Andrew Lourake (amputee pilot) that gave me the push to finish and do it well!”