Combining the training experience of a major university flight school, and the unique mission of an aviation nonprofit for people with physical disabilities, Able Flight and Southern Illinois University Carbondale will partner on a joint flight training project beginning this year. In May, five Able Flight Scholarship recipients will arrive at the SIU Carbondale campus, where they will stay in university housing and be trained at Southern Illinois Airport by SIU Aviation instructors during an intensive flight training program as they earn their Sport Pilot Certificates.
Able Flight will select scholarship recipients for training at SIU Carbondale from its pool of candidates and will provide two specially adapted Vashon Ranger Light Sport Aircraft in which the student pilots will learn to fly. SIU instructors will receive factory-provided transitional training in the Ranger. At the conclusion of the 2024 training session, Able Flight and SIU will evaluate the program’s success to build upon it in future years.
Housed in the Glenn Poshard Transportation Education Center, one of the top facilities in the country, SIU Aviation is part of the College of Health and Human Sciences.
“SIU Carbondale has a long and proud history of accessibility for people with disabilities, so we are very excited about our partnership with Able Flight, which shares our values of providing opportunities,” said Robert D. Morgan, CHHS dean. “This collaboration allows us to further develop much-needed pilots for the aviation workforce and to ensure a rich learning environment for our students. We are grateful to Able Flight for supporting students with specialized aircraft and scholarships, and we look forward to Able Flight Scholars joining the Saluki family.”
Morgan added that the agreement fits in well with the university’s Imagine 2030 strategic plan and its pillars addressing partnerships and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Able Flight Executive Director Charles Stites said, “We’re excited to work with Southern Illinois University to create this opportunity for our scholarship recipients. SIU has an outstanding nationally recognized aviation program and world class facilities, and they have whole-heartedly welcomed Able Flight. During their time there, our scholarship recipients will be immersed in flying in a demanding but supportive setting and have the chance to explore opportunities for future undergraduate and graduate degrees in aviation.”
The flight training program will begin in late May and will expand on Able Flight’s long-term partnership at Purdue University which will also take place again this year.