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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 March 2019 it has awarded over 100 scholarships (including flight training and aviation career training), and 70 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

102 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Dennis30

Client Served

Rating: 5

All my life I have dreamed of flying, but a spinal cord injury when I was fourteen kept me from ever fulfilling that dream. All that changed earlier this year when I received a scholarship from Able Flight. These people believed in me and supported me to a greater degree than I ever imagined. Six weeks of training this past summer and now I have achieved something I wasn't sure was even possible. I also serve as an Aerospace Education officer in the Civil Air Patrol. Now I have such a better grasp of the knowledge and some real experience to draw from when I'm trying to teach basic knowledge and skills to my cadets. This was a life altering experience for me and I'm aready sharing the benefits of what I received with the next generation of aviators.

David177

Donor

Rating: 5

Sennheiser Aviation has been a supporter of Able Flight for several years, and we are proud of that relationship, and humbled by the accomplishments of the pilots that Able Flight graduates each year. The program is very well administered and enjoys wide aviation community support because of the integrity of the people involved and the value of the mission.

Chris T

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Able Flight as a advisory board member as well as a donor. I am lucky to meet with the aspiring pilots as they do their flight training at Purdue, and to see the joy in their hearts. When a disabling illness or injury has taken their spirit for life away, the opportunities with Able Flight gives that back to them. Being associated with the wonderful organization is very rewarding but yet humbling. We as part of Able Flight, give them back their freedom, but more so, we give them back their spirit for life.

Client Served

Rating: 5

In 2011 I was granted a scholarship from Able Flight and was sent to Purdue University for training. In just a short 5 weeks I was issued my pilots license. What many people don't know about Able flight is the possibilities that come out of it. Two years ago I would have never thought I would be a graduate student and work in the airline industry. If someone was to ask me to describe Able Flight in 2 words or less I would have to say life-changing to say the least. Able Flight has led me to a career and a much better quality of life.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Able Flight got me back flying at a time in my life when I thought my flying days we're behind me. As a result I'm now making a living as an amputee pilot! I can't say enough good things about the benefits of aviation and the Able Flight organization! Thank you Able Flight for all you did for me and all you're doing for others. -- Ryan (Right leg amputee, WIA Iraq 2003)

Client Served

Rating: 5

Able Flight gave me a gift I never thought I could attain, the gift of flight. I was born with a rare condition that left me wheelchair bound, so although I could stare at the sky with appreciation, I never thought I'd be able to reach it. Becoming a pilot was something I could only dream about.

A scholarship from Able Flight in 2011 turned that dream into a reality. The scholarship provided an intense, 6 week flight school at Purdue University that ended with me receiving a Sport Pilot certification.

I am very grateful to Able Flight for helping me reach my goals and am excited for all the others who will have the chance to experience this amazing opportunity.

Young C.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I am in a wheel chair due to early age polio and never thought flying is possible with my both hands only.

Able Flight granted full scholarship for me to learn flying at Purdue University this year I got my pilot license in six weeks. It was Amazing!

It was total life-changing experience and I am able to fly solo now.
I really appreciate all the effort and support Able Flight provided for my great achievement.

Client Served

Rating: 5

When I was 16 I had an opportunity to fly and loved every moment in the air. After being wounded by an IED blast in Iraq and consequently losing my left arm and right leg, I figured becoming an aviator was never going to happen. Able Flight and AOPA teamed up to get me back in the air and helped me earn my pilots license. I continue to fly regularly and my story has motivated other veterans to get out and continue to lead active lives. Able flight provides a great service to our veterans and has been an outstanding organization to be affiliated with. I highly recommend Able Flight to anyone with a passion for aviation.

S/F

-Adam Kisielewski
Sgt/USMC/Ret

Deirdre2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Able Flight has changed my life. I have had Multiple Sclerosis since the age of 16 and have been told over the years that I have to modify my whole life and prepare for the inevitable "wheelchair" which was always deemed to be the end all be all of my illness. I always wanted to fly but was told it would never happen. Able Flight took me out of that box and told me to go fly and be free. I am so greatful to Charles and all the Able Flight Instructors as well as my compadres along the journey. Even though it was completely new to me and I had had no former experience, everyone was supportive and positive and certain I would be able to do this...and I did! I will never be able to say, "Thank You!" enough!

At the age of 42, and being in a wheelchair for the past 16 years, I have become a licensed pilot!!! Thank you, a million times, thank you!

Client Served

Rating: 5

AbleFlight gave me the ability to push myself beyond expectations I originally thought possible and gain confidence that has transferred to my daily routine. AbleFlight is a wonderful program that only wants to see its participants succeed. This life changing program has provided me with memories that I will cherish forever. Thanks to everyone for their charitable contributions which has made it possible for me and others to experience the freedom of flight!

Warren C.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Able Flight program is a life changing endeavor. I can't even express the freedom and independence I feel every time I go to the airport, hop in a plane, and fly loved ones around the sky. It is such an accomplishment and boost in confidence when completed and a gift I will cherish forever.

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a recent AbleFlight Scholarship recipient, I wholeheartedly endorse all aspects of this program. If you are looking for a life-changing challenge, then apply. If you want to help change someone's life for the better, then consider giving. The great thing about AbleFlight is that its results are tangible, measurable, and indisputable: a select number of scholarship recipients each year will become licensed pilots. If we can do this, we can do anything!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Able Flight had recently changed my life by bestowing me with a career training scholarship to be a Light Sport Repairman with Maintenance Rating. I was wounded in Iraq twice during the Surge in Baghdad. As a result this prevented me from flying for the Army. One day I came across Able Flight webpage. From that moment on my life was going to be changed even though I didn't realize it. I applied and ended up being fortunate enough to receive the Career Training Scholarship. After coming back from the course in California I was offered a job at the flight school I learned to fly at. I couldn't be any happier and grateful for where I am now. I owe all this to the great people at Able Flight. Without them I don't know where I would be right now. This is an organization that changes lives!!!! I am proof of that.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was one of two lucky recipients to receive a flight training scholarship at Purdue University in 2010. Everyone involved invested so much of their time in assuring our success. I was taken completely out of my comfort zone and pushed to the edge. That is how you learn what you are truly capable of. It was absolutely a life changing experience for me and saying thank you just wasn't enough. I was able to team up with another Able Flight pilot and raise enough money for two wounded vets to learn to fly in what we called "Freedom Flight 2011." There are so many selfless individuals behind this organization and I am extremely proud to be called an Able Flight pilot.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been involved with Able Flight since the very early days. I have met the most amazing people and seen first-hand how Able Flight scholars have been transformed by the freedom of flight. It has been truly rewarding to get to know all the wonderful people involved in this organization at every level. If I ever win the lottery, I am going to make sure Able Flight gets the lion's share of the winnings. Until then, I want to continue to be involved and help get the word out about this GREAT non-profit.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Hi folks. My name is Rod Anderson. I haven't received a scholarship award from Able Flight however I have applied for one. I've been a Class A truck driver and mechanic for the past thirty four years and have outlived various body parts. My life long dream and passion has been to fly. When a career change became inevitable due to advanced spinal stenosis, degeneratine disc disease and arthritis, I became aware of the new opportunities in the field of light sport aircraft. To me, this was a golden opportunity, to be able to pursue my dream of flying and a new career as a light sport repairman with a maintenance rating. I couldn't believe my eyes when I realized there was a scholarship available for this training to people with disabilities. Organizations such as Able Flight are few and far between. The assistance they provide to individuals with disabilities to be productive, viable and assets to the community cannot be understated. I understand that the resources required to make these programs possible are considerable and limited, however the benefits that are reaped and the good that is done is huge in comparasion. The generous donations of individuals and businesses in the aviation industry has made these awards and the success of the reciepients possible.--Rod Anderson

Donor

Rating: 5

I stumbled across Able Flight by accident, but once I witnessed the wonderful things they do I just couldn’t turn away. Able Flight gives the gift of flight to a group of people with disabilities who might not otherwise get the chance. As a corporate sponsor I have personally met several of the folks that have come through the Able Flight training program. It was quickly apparent that these brave folks come out of the program not with just a Sport Pilot certificate but with a renewed motivation to soar in all aspects of their lives and with the feeling that they have gained back some of the freedom they may have lost. I am extremely proud to have our company involved in supporting such a wonderful organization.

Donor

Rating: 5

We at AIM Group Two are proud of our association with Able Flight. We have met some of their recipients and have the highest admiration for their efforts and dedication. There are few things as liberating as taking to the sky in command of an aircraft, and for people who have earthly limitations, it must be an even greater exhilaration. Able Flight is an amazing program.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Ableflight gives unselfishly and has taught me to do the same. I will continues to support whenever I am able and I hope others joing in positively changing lives for the better.

9

Donor

Rating: 5

As a leading supplier of parts, avionics, and pilot supplies to the general aviation and sport aviation markets, Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co. has had the opportunity to sponsor many aviation programs over the years. Aircraft Spruce has sponsored such programs as the EAA Young Eagles, the Build-A-Plane program which introduced high school students to aircraft construction, and the EAA SportAir Workshops which provide education on homebuilt aircraft construction. Aircraft Spruce is proud to be a sponsor of Able Flight, which enables people with disabilities the opportunity to pursue their their dreams in aviation. Able Flight is a wonderful non-profit organization which helps disabled people get started in flight training with the goal of earning their pilot's certificate. For more information on Aircraft Spruce's sponsorship of Able Flight, visit www.aircraftspruce.com

13

Client Served

Rating: 5

Ableflight has become a topnotch non-profit organization that has truly made a difference in the lives of many people. I was a recipient of an Ableflight scholarship in 2007. After a few setbacks, I was able to complete my training as a Sport pilot in May 09. Charles has not only helped me by providing the funding for the training, he has been there to offer advise and encouragement throughout the years. I am very grateful for everyone who has made this program so great. Thank You

23

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have nothing but awesome gratitude for Ableflight, Charles and Sue Stites, Jon, Mike, Mitch, and Matt Hanson and Mike Davidson, along with their entire families. My son, Brad Jones became a paraplegic (chest level down) in a truck rollover while attending college at Georgia Southern University. Brad truly thought his life and most of all his love for flying was over, until the wonderful staff at The Shepherd Spinal Center, told him about Ableflight. As a Mom, I can only say this was a gift from God, not only did Brad learn to fly, he got his confidence in himself back and received some of the greatest friends this world could offer. I will never forget my phone call from Brad the day he soloed; "Mom I may not be able to walk, but I can fly." For the first time in a year I heard enthusiasm and life in his voice. I still get choked up today remembering that moment. Thanks Ableflight and all involved for giving me my son back...Brad was the first scholarship recipient.

23

Donor

Rating: 5

Charles Stites has been a personal friend and member of our 501 C 3 organization long before Ableflight was created. When the FAA passed the Sport Pilot certificate requirements, Charles recognized a niche opportunity to make a difference in the lives of some people with disabilities. He ran his ideas past me and I felt they had merit but would take a lot of hard work. Charles and Ableflight have accomplished the task hands down. Ableflight is providing a unique opportunity for people with disabilities to pilot an aircraft without assistance from anyone. For a person to hear “sorry, no you can’t, no it can’t be done, no, no, no” and then have an organization like Ableflight come along and say “Yes you can, let us help” is a life changing experience for these recipients. People who have received scholarships from Ableflight would probably not have been able to accomplish such an awesome goal without their help. Charles has been able to recruit help for this organization through donations of time, equipment, housing, and fuel. If you can make a donation, take my word “there is not a charity more worthy of your help”.

23

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Able Flight is a wonderful organization. It helps remove barriers for people with disabilities to learn to fly and changes lives in the process. As a flight instructor for the program, I learned as much or more from my students as my students did from me. Teaching someone with a disability how to fly was something I'd never done before but I was encouraged and inspired by my students' can-do attitudes. It was a challenging and educational experience. The challenges made it all the more rewarding when we overcame obstacles and achieved success. I was happy to be able to share my passion for aviation with someone who had dreamed about becoming a pilot. I formed lasting friendships through this organization.

17

Donor

Rating: 5

My wife and I have been involved with Able Flight for about two years. We hosted the Able Flight training aircraft and students at our home & hangar at OSH for the 2007 AirVenture flight training program as well as cook outs for the Able Flight gang at AirVenture 2007 and 2008. The program is top notch and we have made many new friends through the organization. I recommend that more folks get involved as it is very satisfying and much needed.

15

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Able Flight's scholarships provide individuals with more than just an opportunity to earn the ability to fly above and beyond their disabilities; these individuals also learn more about themselves as they rise to meet a new challenge, thus enhancing their personal confidence levels and "can do" positive attitudes. In turn, they share their stories with others and inspire them to achieve their own goals. For example, during the summer of 2008, two of the recipients who had earned their sport pilot certificates barnstormed 1,000 miles from Atlanta, Georgia, to Oshkosh, Wisconsin—and topped it off by taxiing right in to AeroShell Square for a warm welcome from AirVenture attendees. The tour was arranged by Able Flight’s executive director, and its goal was to promote awareness of flight training scholarship opportunities for the disabled. In short, the scholarship recipients whom I have personally met are hard working, motivated and ambitious, and are deeply appreciative of their Able Flight scholarships. Let's keep 'em flying!

16

Client Served

Rating: 5

Able Flight is a wonderful, unique organization that helps empower people with disabilities by giving them the opportunity to learn to pilot an aircraft. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to learn to fly. However, my condition, which limits my joint movement and muscular strength, made everyday activities a struggle in turn making the idea of becoming a pilot seem like climbing Mount Everest. Despite the fact, I still tried to take flight lessons while in college. Although I was confronted with many physical challenges my instructor and I were determined not to give up. When my instructor found out about the scholarship, he encouraged me to apply and a couple months later I found myself in Atlanta, GA living my dream! :) Charles Stites, the Executive Director of Able Flight, even paid for me to stay in a nice extended stay hotel and took the time to make sure that I had everything I needed while I trained. I also have to brag on the volunteers for Able Flight. They are the most AWESOMENEST (not sure that's a word . . . oh well*lol*) people you will ever meet. The instructors really took the time and energy to help me learn to adjust to the aircraft. Because I am so small (4’ 8”) it took almost a foot and a half wide booster seat, two 15lbs sand bags, and a piece of rope around the seat belt straps to make me legal. It’s a sight, but it works. :) Also they took the time to make sure I had the skills needed to operate the aircraft safely and not just marginally. Although it took me a little longer than the average student to get my license they didn’t lose faith in me or kick me out after I had exceeded the “national average” number of hours needed. As a result, on May 25th, 2008, I became the first woman under the Able Flight organization to receive my sport pilot license :) Since receiving my certificate, I feel like I have finally conquered that illusive “Mount Everest”. Not only has this experience boosted my confidence and allowed me to fulfill my dream of flight; but also my story has had an effect on many people that I have met recently, either by inspiring them to take on a challenge they’ve been dreaming about or redefining their idea of what it means to have a disability. Thanks Able Flight!!

14

Client Served

Rating: 5

Shortly after my paralysis, I never believed I would fulfill my lifelong dream of flying. As a quadriplegic, I have limited hand function and no movement in my legs. I had often thought about ways to overcome this challenge, but I never imagined there would be an organization dedicated to making this dream a reality. Able Flight has given me an amazing gift, and I feel greatly in debt for everything they have done. It was a pleasure to work with my instructor Matt. His willingness to adjust his teaching techniques in order to overcome the difficulties for my particular limitations makes him a perfect instructor for Able Flight. The whole Hansen group really made me feel like I was part of the family. I am still in awe that there are people like those at Able Flight, who are willing to give so much of themselves to help others fulfill their dreams.

17 Bob Seidel

Donor

Rating: 5

Jet Aviation Business Jets, Inc. (JBJI) has been a supporter of Able Flight since shortly after its founding. As General Manager of JBJI I am approached by numerous charities and non-profits for donations. To me donating to Able Flight is a no-brainer. Charles Stites operates the organization very efficiently. I have seen first hand how its work has literally changed the lives of individuals, brought families closer together and given the freedom and confidence which comes from piloting an aircraft to those whose need these things most - the disabled.

16

Client Served

Rating: 5

Able Flight has to be the best non-profit organization I have ever come across. I received a scholarship from able flight to learn to fly an airplane with hand control due to the fact that I am paralyzed from the chest down. The experience changed my life in amazing ways. I can never thank able flight enough for what they have done for me and I wish everyone could experience what They have to offer.

14

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My family has been involved in Able Flight since its inception. It is a wonderful way for us to give back to the aviation community and make a difference in the lives of people who might otherwise not get a chance to enjoy the freedom of flight. Our company imports and sells aircraft with adaptive hand controls that allow people to pilot the aircraft without the use of their legs. We donate as much aircraft time and support as we can afford and it has enriched our lives tremendously. We’ve made new friends all across the country. And since any body involved in Able Flight (donor, sponsor, student, or volunteer) has demonstrated a love of aviation and the belief that it can change lives, they automatically qualify as an honorary Hansen and are considered part of our extended family. As a flight instructor, I teach regulations, basic aerodynamics, weather and aeronautical decision making. Flight instructors also try to instill a sense of confidence and self reliance that is unique to aviators. That is at the heart of what Able Flight is all about. They believe becoming an aviator can breed confidence and inspire people with disabilities to do whatever they can dream. I’ve been a professional aviator for 22 years. I’ve instructed in the military and general aviation and can say that the volunteer flight and ground instructor hours I’ve performed for Able Flight have been the most rewarding of my career. There is nothing more satisfying than turning loose a solo student who once thought piloting an airplane was out of their reach because of a disability. Working with Able Flight can present some unique challenges to flight instructors, but that means rewards are even greater. The sense of pride from working with the Wounded Warriors and the "Return to flight" students is hard to put into words. Any aviator can imagine the wonderful feeling you get when you help a fellow aviator or veteran who’s been dealt a tough hand, get to be pilot in command. There is nothing better than seeing the joy, confidence, and sense of accomplishment light up the face of an Able Flight student. Another great aspect of Able Flight is how they encourage their new aviators to give back. When you see Sean O’Donnell start his own flight school, Jessica Scharle tutor new students or watch Brad Jones barnstorm a 1000 miles to meet and inspire others in wheelchairs, you realize Able Flight touches many more people than just their scholarship recipients. In summary, you won’t find a more dedicated, hard working, and inspiring group of people than those at Able Flight. And if you’re lucky enough to be one of the flight instructors, it’s a whole lot of fun!! Mitch Hansen Hansen Air Group Volunteer Flight Instructor

14

Client Served

Rating: 5

My name is Brad Jones, I am a paraplegic, and I was awarded a scholarship through Ableflight. It provided me the most rewarding experience of my life by awrading me a flight training schlarship which yeilded me a sport pilot license. I'm currently a pilot and fly as often as I can. The organization gave me a renewed sense of self-confidence through my experince with them over the past 2 years. During this time I have had the privilege to fly and obtain my pilots license, I also participated in a barnstorming tour where we raised awarness of the organization. Ableflight contains a group of people that are truly dedicated to providing a community of people with disabilities with an opportunity of a life time with the gift of flight.

15

Client Served

Rating: 5

Able Flight is a tremendous organization that assists physically challeneged individuals to realize a life long dream to fly. I have wanted to fly for as long as I can remember (50+ years). Able Flight made that dream come true and gave me a new purpose and direction in life that will allow me to share the wonders of aviation with family and friends. As a recipient of the Challenege Scholarship I was able to experience flight training without the expense, which was truly important to someone on disability. Funds cannot be wasted. I now know that my dream since childhood will eventually be realized thanks to Able Flight. The Able Flight organization and personnel truly care about their purpose and scholarship awardees. I will be forever grateful to Able Flight for the opportunity they gave me. Even if I never fly again, Able Flight has changed my life in ways I guess that only pilots can relate too, and that I hope to share.

14

Client Served

Rating: 5

I became a paraplegic 24 years ago. I've lived my journey in an able bodied world and have always sought out to do things that enable me to be out of my chair. To feel the freedom that we all are looking for. Able Flight has allowed me to make a dream come true by becoming a pilot. My relationship with the organization has been one of the best encounters I have experienced in my life. They have allowed me to fulfill a dream of obtaining that freedom and also giving me the greatest challenge of my life. So many different levels of who I am have been involved with becoming a sports pilot and the support of all involved with Able Flight have been there to help me through each step. As a little girl I dreamed of being a Flight Attendant....BUT...being the PILOT is so much better!! I can't say THANK YOU enough for all that Able Flight has given to me through my experience!

14

Client Served

Rating: 5

This is a small but amazing organization that tasks itself with some of the most challenging tasks it can. In this way it leads its scholarship winners by not only saying, but showing by example, that if you put your mind to something, almost anything is achievable.

13

Donor

Rating: 5

Able Flight has given so many deserving individuals one of the greatest opportunities of a lifetime.....the oportunity to FLY. Flying, in itself, is a great and wonderful experience, but when you have a disability, and you could never imagine being able to have that dream fulfilled, well, just imagine how that would make you feel. Able Flight has given that dream of a lifetime to so many wonderful people, and I so am proud to be a part of it. Thanks Able Flight for a lot of special memories shared with a lot of special people. Martha K.