December 4, 2022

A Record Number Of Scholarships For 2019

With ten new flight training scholarships just awarded, Able Flight has now reached the milestone of awarding over 100 scholarships since it was founded. This year’s Able Flight class includes an Army Lt. Colonel wounded in combat, four other veterans disabled due to accidents, and two women. One of the veterans is a former Army helicopter pilot who is now paralyzed and will be returning to flying with his Able Flight Scholarship.

Receiving awards are Lt. Colonel Daniel Gade (US Army-retired) of Virginia, Leslie Irby and Ignacio Montoya of Georgia, Will Bucher of North Carolina, Steven Martinez and Samuel Mahoney of Wisconsin, T’angelo Magee of New Jersey, Anthony Radetic of Alabama, Joseph Moncalieri of Massachusetts, and Emily Hupe of California who is returning to train this year after illness forced a delay in 2018.

Able Flight’s Charles Stites said, “2019 is a year of milestones for our program with the largest number of scholarships in a single year, and we are excited to have awarded more than 100 total scholarships since the program was founded. This has only been possible due to the continuous support we have received from sponsors in the aviation community, and from donors both inside and outside of aviation.”

2019 also marks the tenth consecutive year of Able Flight’s partnership with Purdue University, and the third year of its partnership with The Ohio State University. With flight school beginning in mid-May, the students have already begun their studies with online courses donated by Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

Graduates of the “Class of 2019” will be guests of honor when they receive their Able Flight Wings on stage at EAA AirVenture in July, just weeks after becoming licensed pilots.

Announcing Our 2018 Scholarship Recipients

The Able Flight Class of 2018 includes a woman paralyzed due to an accident, two future pilots who are deaf, a man who became paralyzed due to an auto accident, a man who was born with a condition affecting all four limbs, and a soldier wounded in combat. The six new aspiring pilots are already  working their way through an online ground school course, and in May, four will report to Purdue University and two to The Ohio State University.

Receiving flight training scholarships are Emily Hupe of California,  Rob Shardy of Ohio,  Julia Velasquez of California, Kory Puderbaugh of Arizona,  Asher Kirschbaum of Maryland and Staff Sgt. Robert Bartlett (retired) of Virginia. Shardy and Bartlett will train at OSU and the others will train at Purdue.

Able Flight’s Charles Stites said, “As with all Able Flight pilots who have come before them, this year’s class will soon discover how challenging our training course is at both universities. Both Purdue University and The Ohio State University share our goal of training pilots who graduate with a new sense of what they are capable of, and a true appreciation for what they have experienced through such an intensive and demanding program. When they receive their Able Flight pilot’s wings, they will know they have earned them.”

Based on their individual needs, the student pilots will be training in a variety of Light Sport Aircraft.  Sporty’s Pilot Shop provided each student with an online ground school course, and they received access to the program early so can begin their studies and become familiar with rules and regulations, aerodynamics, aircraft performance, weather and the abundance of aviation acronyms. Just prior to their arrival for training each student will also receive a complimentary one year Pro subscription to ForeFlight to assist them with flight planning and navigation information.

This is the ninth consecutive year of Able Flight’s partnership with Purdue, and its second year working with The Ohio State University. Graduates of the “Class of 2018” will be guests of honor when they receive their Able Flight Wings on stage at EAA AirVenture On Tuesday, July 24th, just weeks after becoming licensed pilots.

Class of 2017 To Get Their Wings!

The Able Flight Class of 2017 will be honored in a special ceremony at EAA AirVenture on Tuesday, July 25th at 10am at Theater In The Woods. Eight new students trained at both Purdue University and Ohio State University beginning in mid-May, and after nearly two months of hard work in the airplanes and the classroom, they began taking checkrides just a few weeks ago.

This year’s pilots include a veteran wounded in combat, several pilots who were paralyzed due to accidents, a young woman who is a diabetic, and a young man who is deaf.  2017 pilots are Melissa Allensworth of California, Benedict Jones of Indiana, Kunho Kim of Massachusetts, Captain Ferris Butler U.S. Army (retired) of Maryland, Chris Corsi and Brice Lott of North Carolina, Kathryn Brenner of Illinois and Zackary Kukorlo of Washington.

Six of the pilots will also be honored individually as recipients of scholarships provided by Bombardier, ForeFlight, Lockheed Martin, Jet Aviation, Shell Aviation and Tempest.


The Gift Of A Plane

(L-R) Charles Stites, Sheila Sommers & Steve Merritt

Navy veteran Dennis Sommers wanted to add becoming a pilot to his long list of achievements. Having soloed under the tutelage of instructor Allen Fox, Dennis was well on his way, when early in 2017, cancer ended his dream. After his passing in March of this year, the classic Ercoupe 415-C Dennis had bought in which to learn to fly, and then named “Little Bird”, sat behind the closed doors of his hangar in Chester, South Carolina. Then,  his wife Sheila found Able Flight, and donated the unique plane that can be flown by people without use of their legs.

Sheila Sommers and instructor Allen Fox

The donation was set in motion when Sheila heard about Able Flight from Larry Snyder, Executive Director of the Ercoupe Owners Club as she searched for an organization that would use the plane to honor Dennis’ wish that it help others learn to fly. When she investigated Able Flight, she realized that it would be used to do just that, and could be used to help wounded or disabled veterans to fly as well. And since Dennis had not only been a Navy veteran but had also served in the National Guard and Coast Guard, giving the plane to Able Flight would be a perfect fit.

Of the donation Charles Stites of Able Flight said, “We are honored that Sheila found Able Flight and made the decision to donate Dennis’ airplane to further his wish that it would go to an organization that would use it to help fulfill the flying dreams of others. When we met, Sheila shared the story of Dennis telling her that many people have a bucket list of things to do when they retire, but that his could be on a single piece of paper, and that was learning to fly. It was wonderful to learn that with Allen Fox as his instructor, Dennis was able to solo his Ercoupe before he became ill. Dennis and Allen had established that special bond that a student pilot and instructor have, and it was touching to see Allen return to help Sheila take care of the details of the donation.”

Sheila with photo of her late husband, Dennis Sommers.

On July 3rd, Charles Stites and Steve Merritt of Able Flight traveled to meet with Sommers and Fox to formally accept the donated plane. After Sommers signed over the Ercoupe, Merritt received the keys and flew it to North Carolina before a scheduled journey to Indiana where it will reside year-round to be used in Able Flight’s training program at Purdue University.

Prior to being put into service for Able Flight at its program at Purdue, the Ercoupe will receive several upgrades to prepare it for intensive use as a trainer. The baggage compartment will be increased in size to accommodate carrying a wheelchair, and a new transponder with ADS-B Out will be installed to make sure it meets upcoming FAA requirements. Able Flight is seeking donations to help make those upgrades possible, so if you wish to help, just visit the “Donate” page to make your gift of any amount and you can add the word “Ercoupe” in the notes on your donation.

2017 Flight Training Underway


(L-R) Brice Lott, Josh Fisher, Luke Shutway and Chris Corsi

Ever since they were awarded scholarships, the Able Flight “Class of 2017” had been waiting for training to begin. Months of anticipation culminated in the arrival of Brice Lott and Chris Corsi at The Ohio State University on May 15th, and a week later, Melissa Allensworth, Benedict Jones, Kunho Kim, Zackary Kurkalo, Ferris Butler, and Kathryn Brenner arrived at Purdue. After meeting their instructors and getting settled in their dorm rooms, daily flight and ground school lessons were quickly underway.


(L-R) Lucero Duran, Wesley Major and Molly Van Scoy

Even with less than desirable weather throughout the Midwest in the first two weeks, instructors had the students up flying as often as twice a day, and time spent not in the air was time spent in the classroom. Instructing for Able Flight at OSU this year are Luke Shutway and Josh Fisher, with Joe Schwerdtfeger serving as supervising instructor, and Rob Mendez as student ambassador.


At Purdue, Lucero Duran returns as lead instructor with Justin Beam, Allison Hoffman, Sean O’Brien, Chris Konecnik, Nick Liberman, Rob Banta and Molly Van Scoy as instructors. Wesley Major is the onsite program coordinator at Purdue for the fifth consecutive year. With the expansion of training to The Ohio State University, this is the largest group of students and instructors and support personnel in the history of Able Flight, and the logistical challenges reflect the size of the project.

A few numbers to consider:

Students traveled from eight states
Eight dorm rooms
Eleven instructors
Five airplanes (four were ferried from three states)
Two onsite program coordinators
Three maintenance staff
Over 1100 gallons of Swift Fuels and avgas  will be used (Swift Fuels at Purdue and avgas at OSU)
Hundreds of classroom and individual pre and post flight hours

2017 Benefit At Purdue A Great Success

Nearly 120 friends and supporters of Able Flight gathered at Purdue University for Able Flight’s yearly celebration and benefit event on Saturday, April 29th. The celebration and fundraiser was Able Flight’s fifth annual party to honor our pilots, and to thank our friends for making our scholarship and training program possible.

A large group of returning Able Flight pilots were the VIPs of the evening, including Jessica Scharle, Sgt. Jason Gibson, Curtis Stanley, Jason Jernigan, Wesley Major, Jessica Cox, Stephen Carrier, Justin Falls, Raymart Tinio and Dennis Akins.Also attending were 2017 scholarship recipients Benedict Jones and Kathryn Brenner.

Thanks to the generous support of event sponsors Embraer, Flexjet and Muncie Aviation, all proceeds from the sale of table and seats and the auction went to Able Flight’s Scholarship Fund.

The combination silent and spirited live auction included items from L-3, Shell Aviation, Patty Wagstaff, Garmin, ForeFlight, Sennheiser, Scheyden, Sporty’s Pilot Shop, Concorde Batteries, Bombardier and Abingdon Watches. The Tad Robinson Band followed the auction,  featuring Robinson, an 8-time nominee for top artist and album of the year in the blues soul category.

Our thanks to our friends at Purdue University, especially professor Bernie Wulle and Able Flight pilot Wesley Major, and to Chris Throndsen and Sue Stites for their assistance with the party.   

Announcing Our 2017 Scholarship Awards


This year’s class will train at Able Flight’s programs at Purdue University and Ohio State University, and includes a U.S. Army captain wounded in combat, a young woman with diabetes, a young man who is deaf, and five people who use wheelchairs due to paralysis caused by injuries.

Receiving full flight training scholarships are Brice Lott and Chris Corsi of North Carolina, Melissa Allensworth of California, Zackery Kukorlo of Washington, Kathryn Brenner of Illinois, Kunho Kim of Massachusetts, Benedict Jones of Indiana and Captain Ferris Butler (U.S. Army-retired) of Colorado. Receiving a “Flight Training Challenge” Scholarship is Steven Martinez of Wisconsin.

Able Flight’s Charles Stites said, “For years, our 2017 scholarship recipients have faced living with physical disabilities that present daily challenges, and now, they will face the challenge of becoming a licensed pilot. During their training they’ll learn what it means when we say our program is intensive and demanding. And when they are successful, they will have earned the privilege to share the wonder of flight.”

This is the eighth consecutive year of Able Flight’s partnership with Purdue, and the first year of its expansion to Ohio State University. Graduates of the “Class of 2017” will be guests of honor when they receive their Able Flight Wings on stage at EAA AirVenture, just weeks after becoming licensed pilots.


Able Flight Partners With Ohio State University

sky-arrow-5058-after-3504-x-2336Able Flight and Ohio State University will partner on a new flight training program for people with physical disabilities beginning in May, 2017. Able Flight’s Charles Stites said, “We are excited and honored to partner with a university aviation program with the history and stature of Ohio State. It is our hope that in addition to the high level flight training our students will receive, that they will also have the opportunity to explore the broad offering of aviation education opportunities at Ohio State.”

The program will begin with two Able Flight Scholarship recipients who will take part in an intensive six week program at the Ohio State University Airport in Columbus, Ohio, and who will be trained by Ohio State instructors. Ohio State University has one of the country’s premier flight training programs, and its graduates are represented throughout business, commercial and military aviation.

“The scholarships are awarded to individuals who have demonstrated the determination required to learn to fly. Our staff is looking forward to working with these highly motivated scholarship recipients,” said Brandon Mann, Ohio State Flight Education Director.

Beginning with meetings at EAA AirVenture this past July, Able Flight quickly discovered that Ohio State shared a goal of providing aviation opportunities for people with disabilities, and with this new partnership, Able Flight will now be able to expand its flight training program to a second university. Since 2010, Able Flight has had a continuing partnership with Purdue University to train Able Flight scholarship recipients, and 2017 will mark the eighth consecutive year of training at Purdue.

To learn more about aviation at Ohio State University, visit

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.


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.