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2018 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Able Flight

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Scholarships, Scholarships & Student Financial Aid

Mission: Able Flight's mission is to offer people with disabilities a unique way to challenge themselves through flight and aviation career training, and by doing so, to gain greater self-confidence and self-reliance.

Results: Able Flight was founded in June of 2006, and awarded its first flight training scholarships in December of 2006. As of October 2017 it has awarded 90 scholarships (including flight training and aviation career training), and 60 recipients are now licensed pilots. Beginning in 2010, Able Flight partnered with Purdue University on a annual joint flight training program. To date, every student trained at Purdue and sent for a check ride has passed for a 100% success rate. In 2017, Ohio State University became Able Flight's second training partner, with two students being successfully trained in the first year. In 2011 Able Flight began awarding Aviation Career Training Scholarships, and as of October 2017 has awarded fifteen career training scholarships..

Target demographics: Able Flight serves a diverse population of people with disabilities, including, but not limited to, those with spinal cord injuries, wounded and disabled veterans, and those with Cerebral Palsy, MS, and loss of limb(s).

Geographic areas served: National

Programs: Flight Training Scholarships Aviation Career Training Scholarships Scholarships for wounded veterans

Community Stories

90 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Donor

Rating: 5

My wife Arleen and I became acquainted with Able Flight about 4 years ago. After attending their annual fundraising dinner in New Orleans and meeting Charles and Sue Stites and the scholarship recipients, we were inspired to become involved in this great cause. Within a couple of months, we met with Charles and Sue and informed them we wanted to sponsor a pilot and commit to a three-year agreement. I am happy that in 2018 we renewed our agreement for another three years. We are proud to offer the Tempest Lloyd Smith Memorial Scholarship in memory of Alreen's late husband who loved aviation.

This is a great cause and we are humbled to be able to play a small role in its success!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I knew about Able Flight before there was an Able Flight.

I have known its founder, Charles Stites for over 35 years and have watched and listened as Able Flight has grown from a passion for flight into helping individuals with physical disabilities to gain the skills and the freedom to soar.

As a bystander and volunteer I have witnessed the growing passion and impact that this program offers to not only the participants but to other volunteers and the sponsors, both corporate and private. Able Flight continues to expand both in services and direction from earning a Sport Pilots license to encouraging careers in aviation. Able Flight and its flight training partners are charting a new course.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Able Flight is one of the best non-profits I have had the good fortune to be involved with. Passionate and committed to the people they serve, they create tangible and real opportunities for very special, hard working and committed people, and the results are measurable. I'm really proud to have followed them from the start and encourage anyone with interest in aviation and helping people with disabilities learn to fly to support this most worth and impressive non profit.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have donated to this organization since it’s inception and have had the pleasure of meeting the beneficiaries of their amazing work. The new pilots that come out of this program defy the odds and persevere to achieve a life changing goal: soloing an aircraft and taking to the air. Many go on to pursue a rewarding career in aviation. All of these aviators inspire those around them to accomplish more in life, without letting barriers stand in the way.

Rick G.2

Donor

Rating: 5

It's been an honor to donate to this great organization. They are doing what no one else has done by providing scholarships to challenged individuals.

Donor

Rating: 5

We've had the privilege of sponsoring Able Flight for the past few years with scholarship funding and we have joined them in the celebration of each recipient cadet's graduation.

We continue to be inspired by the outstanding achievements of each cadet and especially their dedication and determination to achieve their goals in life and in their careers!

Sponsoring Able Flight cadets is a very rewarding investment in the lives of the most amazing people, including those who have served our country so bravely!

Your life will be forever changed when you get to know Charles and Sue Stites as well as volunteers and the flight instructors who so passionately dedicate their time and talent to their cadets.

Daniel R. Bachmann
Embraer Corporate Communications

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a flight instructor for this program I was able to provide instruction to some of the most motivated and talented pilots in the aviation industry. Able Flight provides an fantastic opportunity to individuals to become more of themselves and take to the skies. Working for this organization as been a pleasure and something I will carry with me throughout my career.

Christina G.2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I instructed for Able Flight this past summer and was very happy I chose to stick around Purdue to do so. The experiences and memories made during my time instructing for Able Flight were rewarding and humbling. Everyone in the program is excited and passionate about the work they do. I look forward to seeing the continued growth and progress this nonprofit makes.

Emily Ann H.

Client Served

Rating: 5

On May 16, 2018, I walked into Hangar 6 at Purdue University Airport and I was both terrified and excited. Back home in San Diego, I had left my husband and 7 children, I was 48 years old, and I was going to learn to fly!
From the moment my friend Melissa, who attended the previous year suggested Able Flight and I contacted them, I was hooked. Charles was so wonderful in answering all questions and leading me through the process. When I was called and told I was chosen, I was ecstatic.
Austin Decker my flight instructor and I bonded instantly. He is one of the finest young men I've ever met. He was calm and patient and when I was ready to give up, never gave up on me.
The whole Able Flight family from ground school teacher Mike Gref to all the CFI's, Christina, Andrew, Andrea, and Alyssa I felt fully supported. I wish I could name everyone!
The accommodations were accessible and I felt right at home.
I cannot say enough about how this program has changed my life. It gave me confidence and courage and it allowed my children to see their mom do something amazing! In fact, I’ve inspired my 19 year old son to pursue a career in aviation!
These are priceless gifts.
Thank you Able Flight!

Client Served

Rating: 5

After dreaming of becoming a pilot for years and wishing I could "fly", in 2018, thanks to Charles, AbleFlight, Purdue, and my flight instructors, this became a reality!

Everything from the application process, to arriving, to flying, the lessons- leading up to the big moment you get your wings, was very clear! This program is very well run and some of the best moments of my life were born here!

This isn't a program one can just invest 50% of their time in and think they'll get their license- it takes some time to study both before you arrive and at night after your lessons. Nonetheless, there is still plenty of time to enjoy time with your new classmates, instructors, or call home!

Big thank you for this opportunity and I would highly recommend this program to any and all those who wish to become a pilot! 5 stars indeed!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Last May, I got a rare opportunity to learn how to pilot a plane. It was one of my favorite learning experiences of my life. Their determination to make my experience accessible was the key to my success in the program.

Everybody involved with the organization has incredibly positive attitude, and they are determined to see their students succeed.

I am forever grateful for this experience.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Extremely well put together. The family atmosphere provided me with friends for life, and was a foundation to build extraordinary skills as an instructor. Students and instructors alike can all agree that expectations were more than exceeded!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have seen this program operate for two years now and I can tell the difference it makes in the clients lives. I interacted with participants on predominately each weekend and from week to week week I could see the progress being made from a flying perspective and from a quality of life perspective. Participants grew more confident in their abilities, became more comfortable around one another, changed perceptions of what a disability means, and had fun doing so. I hope the Able Flight program continues to grow and can reach as many people as possible.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Spenidng a summer participating in this organization, it was amazing to see the value added to participants lives after receiving their Pilots License. The leadership for this organization is also very passionate.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I've been fortunate enough to see both sides of several non-profits, through being served as a client and acting as a volunteer for some. I can say without a doubt that Able Flight provides one of (if not the) most powerful experience of any that I've come across. For people with disabilities (like me) finding greater independence and confidence in living is a daily exercise. It's often that a large goal, like obtaining a sporting pilot certificate, seems totally impossible. Able Flight & their sponsors (my personal one was from Shell Aviation) in conjunction with Purdue University, Ohio State University (and maybe others soon?) provide the structure and opportunity for something so unique and special.

My first solo flight was like nothing I've ever felt; a level of confidence and capability that's eluded me for too long. It seemed obvious that this program would be awesome, flying everyday, twice a day (if we can) for 6 weeks. But I never realized how much I would truly love it. It's the only thing I've been genuinely excited to wake up before 6am for in my life, I think. When I land each morning and think about having flown around in the skies for at least an hour before 9am, everything is up from there.

Already the pilot mindset is spilling into other areas of my life. The first part is about being prepared and diligent about every detail, with the aircraft, the weather, and countless other things, following exacting procedures, & more. Second you have to execute that knowledge, & at the same time have high situational awareness of what's happening around you, with the aircraft, the weather, communications, unforeseen hazards, etc. Plus you have to illicit good pilot judgment about a variety of circumstances, some of which can be learned, while some seems largely intuitive. Lastly is the debriefing and lessons learned after each flight. A way of coming back to point zero & starting over again from the same place, hopefully adding those layers of experience into well-rounded skill.

Flying is the perfect intersection of engineering and performance. We learn the engineering behind this vehicle, then go out and fly it based on that knowledge. It's pretty freaking cool. If I could fly everyday from here on, I would. I'm eager to re-dedicate myself in meaningful ways just as I've felt here, and let these lessons become a huge part of my life.

Big thanks to all our great instructors who fit us in to an already busy schedule and keep us motivated each day! Also thanks to the 6 pilots that were there with me for the support, & being on a memorable and life-changing journey together. It's a brave squad! And of course, a massive thank you to Able Flight & their sponsors, without which this amazing opportunity wouldn't have been possible. - Benedict Jones

Client Served

Rating: 5

Cannot imagine my disabled life without Able Flight. It's been more than appreciated for everything Able Flight had done. An excellent opportunity to grab and help the ultimate flight dream come true for disabled people. I cannot think of truly thankful words to describe about Able Flight. I know sport pilot's license obtainment is on baseline but seriously it is a great start and shows that you can do anything especially flying.

1 melal55

Client Served

Rating: 5

I had the privilege of being awarded a 2017 Able Flight scholarship. For 6 weeks I trained with 5 other disabled student pilots at Purdue University where we earned our sport pilot certificate. The gift of flight was something that I had never even dreamed could be possible for someone living with paralysis like myself. Learning how to fly has been a life changing experience. My deepest gratitude to Charles and all the Able Flight donors, sponsors, and volunteers.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

This year with Able Flight, I had the pleasure to instruct. My student is a member of the deaf community and communicated through sign language, texting, and facial expressions with me. I loved spending my time learning a new way to teach a student in the cockpit and on the ground. It took awhile to figure out how to understand one awhile fully, but we both worked hard to meet in the middle. My student and I worked closely with tower to set up practicing light gun signals almost every flight which was a fun and new experience. Aside from just my student, I enjoyed meeting students of various ages and from all over the country. Their passion for aviation helps drive myself and other flight instructors to do our best while still having fun on the job. Every Sunday, everyone would hang out at the hangar and cookout burgers, hotdogs, and even steak kabobs. At one of these cookouts we even hooked up some of the students wheel chairs to the light sport aircraft to let them show off their strength as they pulled it across the ramp! I laughed and persevered through the beautiful experience of Able Flight with my student, and it was worth every early morning and late evening.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I loved my entire experience throughout the Able flight process. Once I got into the program and was told that id be going to Ohio State for the summer learning how to fly beside expert instructors, all I could think about was how much fun this was going to be. I soon learned that flying is an amazing experience but you have to earn it. Each day began with an early morning flying lesson and each day concluded with another. Between lessons it was imperative that I studied, and I am so glade that I did because the FAA exam is nothing to take lightly. Able flight and Ohio State proved me with a great dorm room with my own bathroom, and an excellent learning environment at both the flight school and the numerous library’s around campus. My Instructor Josh Fisher was extremely knowledgeable in everything aviation. He is the reason I was so prepared for my check ride. Each day he showed up ready to go, and I can gladly say that he is the reason I am so comfortable in the drivers seat of a plane. The whole staff at Ohio State though deserves credit, Joe Schwerdtfeger help me perfect my landings when I was having a really bad day, and he helped me understand things from a different perspective when I needed it. Both Joe and Josh were not only my teachers but in the end became my friends. The Able flight process will push you physically and academically, creating not only a good pilot but also a better individual. I can honestly say that I had an amazing summer learning a skill that I never thought Id ever get the opportunity to take advantage of. Thank you Able Flight for making what was once a dream come into fruition.

Brice Lott

1 fwbutler

Client Served

Rating: 5

As I enter the last year of my 30s, I can’t help but look back on the past decade, post injury, with wonderment and appreciation - even though the beginning of it was fraught with pain and confusion. That evening in Iraq, 21 December 2006, certainly created a new path for my life. A life that has shown me love, compassion, and hope for a better tomorrow; I may have even learned a thing or two since then.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a huge shout out to Able Flight for giving me one of the most memorable experiences of the last decade, if not of my life. Through peer advice from some other past participants I embarked on a program that would allow me to complete a seemingly unattainable dream of mine – the power of flight! Long story short, I was selected as a 2017 Able Flight participant hosted at Purdue University Aviation Technology. This allowed me to basically fly night and day, with a serious amount of book work for the better part of six weeks. I was able to interact with, dare I say it, “millennials.” This group of young instructors truly set the standard for professionalism, intellect, and discipline. My instructor, a strapping 21 year old highly qualified pilot, showed me the right way.

As of a few weeks ago, I completed all requirements, including solo pattern work, solo cross-country flying, along with oral exam and check ride. The training went very well, and I am officially a Light Sport Pilot, with new dreams of progressing to other certifications. 
I was extremely impressed by Able Flight’s organization of this program. A lot of effort goes into the logistical process of securing “adapted” aircraft that fit our class’s disabled needs. Several pilots required fully equipped hand controls, etc. As well, a methodical approach was given to the academic portion of the program, which in many ways is more important than the flying component.

In short, I wholeheartedly indorse my support for Able Flight’s program. This small non-profit is having an enormous impact on, not only the participants, but also the instructors that have to change their normal teaching strategies up a bit to accommodate our needs. I myself am a bi-lateral below knee amputee and progressed through the program rapidly because of the effort put forth by my instructors, and the infrastructure that was provided by Able Flight.