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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 2016 it has awarded 78 scholarships (including flight training and aviation career training), and fifty three 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 2011 Able Flight began awarding Aviation Career Training Scholarships, and as of October 2016 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

68 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 5

Being awarded the Able flight scholarship was likely the best gift of my life. I spent the summer at Purdue with a group of student pilots from different parts of the country, and with different disabilities. We were united by our love for flying, and encouraged one another and celebrated our triumphs. We each had our own dedicated flight instructor. For those of us who cannot move around easily, flying restores a sense of freedom of movement. For me, to become pilot-in-command of a small aircraft gives a sense of personal power and joy. To fly an airplane, you are reminded how beautiful the world is. And in that position, your disabilities disappear. We accomplished in roughly six weeks what most student pilots achieve in six months or more. Able Flight showed us we were up to the challenge. Without this scholarship, and the support of everyone at Purdue, most of us would have remain grounded. Instead, we worked hard, we helped each other, and we laughed a lot. It is unusual to find an organization that can accommodate disabilities and find solutions to facilitate flying an aircraft. There is no other scholarship like it, and I felt lucky to have been part of this summer’s group. This small non-profit focuses on improving quality of life, achievement and fun, which becomes part of who we are. Pilots!


Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

My name is Robin Rhodes, I’m an Aviation Resource Manager in the USAF, but more importantly I'm Tyrell Rhodes mom. Tyrell was a 2012 Able Flight student. His interest in aviation began at a very young age. Ty has lived on or near Air Force base his entire life. Almost daily he would go outside to watch the planes fly over our house. He enjoyed coming to my job so he could talk to the pilots, play with all their flight equipment, and going to the annual airshow was always a treat for him. When he was about 5, we were discussing what he was going to be for Halloween, of course Ty said a pilot. As he got older, I hoped he would change his mind, which never happened. I didn't have the heart to tell him that being a pilot probably wasn't going to happen for him because he was born with Cerebral Palsy. Boy, am I glad I never did!
When he heard about Able Flight, he did some research, and then applied. I will never forget the excitement in his voice when he called me to tell me he was accepted into the program. The day after his High School graduation we made our way to Purdue University and his life hasn't been the same since. The experience has made Tyrell more confident and has encouraged him to pursue a career in the aviation industry. Currently he is in his second year of college studying Aviation Administration, with goals of being Airport Commissioner at O’Hare International Airport. Tyrell made lifelong friends and mentors during his 6 weeks at the Able Flight program.
This organization is absolutely phenomenal! It's literally, a life changer! Hats off to all the instructors, volunteers, board members, donors and last but not least, Mr. Stites for all that you do to ensure this program continues to be a huge success. Your commitment to your students has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for allowing my son and others like him the opportunity to accomplish their dreams.


General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Able flight has made a monumental impact in my families lives with their program. My husband, a disabled veteran, participated in the program this year (2014) and the experience completely changed the trajectory of our lives for the better. Kurt (my hubby) had dreamed of flying his whole life, yet after his disabling accident, he thought he would never be able to achieve that dream. He was depressed, dejected and had been wondering what to do with his life. The Able flight program brought life back into his eyes. The completion of the program presented more opportunity to him for career choices and a REAL FUTURE! There is NO other program (of which I am aware) that does more for the alternately abled community than Able Flight. Charles Stites and His beautiful wife, Sue, have put together one of the best non-profit organizations I've ever seen. How awesome a vision to provide hope and a future to those who previously thought their usefulness had come to an end? I LOVE able flight!!!!


Rating: 5

As a Flight Instructor for 40 years, I have trained new pilots from 16 years to 71 years old, and recognized that each learns in a different way and each presents a challenge to guide them to their goals of becoming a pilot. Until I heard of Able Flight, I could not comprehend the challenges of people with disabilities making it through their everyday activities, muchless learning to fly an airplane.

Since meeting Charles Stites and many of his scholarship winners, I have a new and expanded view of not only the physical capabilities of these folks, but also their indomitable spirit that just needed an Able Flight to carry them to new heights in their lives.

I could not think of a more valuable charity to donate, for the simple reason that it absolutely has changed the lives of so many. Being a veteran, I am especially concerned about the returning Wounded Warriors, and ask that my donations be directed to these scholarship winners.

At the annual Able Flight awards ceremony each year at the EAA Airventure Air Show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, I am overwhelmed by the spirit of those who "earned their wings" through the Able Flight program. Just think about what they are thinking -" I cannot walk, BUT I CAN FLY". It's emotionally overwhelming!

Charles Stites has really discovered with Able Flight the "greater good" we all search for in life, but rarely is our search fulfilled. He does spectacular work, and the aviation world is a better universe because of him and his efforts.


Rating: 5

I first heard about Able Flight last summer and thought that it was a good program that helped spread the word about aviation and an opportunity to help various individuals achieve a dream they thought was impossible. It wasn't until this past summer when I was able to be volunteer as a flight instructor for the organization, that I realized that it was more than that.

I can say that I am extremely glad and honored to have been able to participate in this organization. I have been able to not only spread the love for aviation to those that participated in the program, but also have helped them achieve their dreams, an opportunity that I would never forget and that I would do so again in a heartbeat. I have also learned so much about instructing, life, and myself. Participating in this organization has helped me become a better person.

Able Flight is an organization that changes the lives of those that get involved in it, from the individuals selected to participate to the volunteers. Of course, it would never be possible without the hard and undying work of those "behind-the-scenes" individuals that continue to work to keep the organization going and being what it is, i.e. Charles Stites.

After this year, I know that I want and will continue to participate, help and be part of this great organization.


Client Served

Rating: 5

Able Flight is a absolutely a GREAT non profit organization! They really care about the people that they are helping, which is disabled people wanting to become pilots. To some that may sound weird, a disabled person with a goal of wanting to fly an airplane? but to them that is a possible candidate into there professional program that they have. I was ecstatic to learn that Able Flight was going to make my dreams come true when they gave me the chance to finish my flight training. Sitting on the ground thinking about your disability won't get you anywhere, and if you have ambitions of soaring in the air, then take the challenge of a lifetime and contact Able Flight and get your wings so you will be ABLE to know that you are just as ABLE as anyone else!


Rating: 5

As a volunteer with Able Flight, I was rather unsure of what I was initially getting involved in. Having never taught outside of the one program I was employed with at the time, I didn't know what kind of support I'd have, and what the environment would be like.

After my first year instructing, I knew that Able Flight was a program that I wanted to work for, or at the very least, support in the future. At first, I though that it was just a nice program that taught people with physical disabilities how to fly an airplane. I later realized how much this program did to change the lives of the people that were lucky enough to be selected. Both years that I have helped out, I have seen the fantastic opportunity that this program provides, and the many good people that become a part of this program, from the students, to the instructors; from the donors, to the directors.

For the last two years, all of my personal highs have occurred when working for this program. If I may be so bold, I believe that I may have learned more about instructing and about myself than the students learn during the course of the summer portion of the program.

But enough about me; this program would not exist without the stellar work of Charles Stites, the head of the program. He has 100% commitment to Able Flight but probably more. Whenever I speak with him, I can tell how much he cares for the program, the students, and the volunteers. He is the most supportive and hands down best director that the Able Flight program could hope to have. He will get whatever needs to be done, and take on obstacles, no matter how big or small, for the furtherance of the program. However, more importantly, he will do whatever it takes to create the an environment that best lets the students succeed. And successful he has been with the 100% success rate that Able Flight enjoys.

There is nothing I can say that has not already been said by countless others: the Able Flight program is, as far as I am concerned, the best nonprofit in aviation and deserves to remain a top nonprofit in the country. Thank you Charles, for allowing me to be a part of this outstanding program.

Client Served

Rating: 5

After completing the Able Flight program, I have made not only myself proud, but my family and friends as well. Growing up with cerebral palsy, I have always been told that I couldn’t do certain things. Able Flight gave me the opportunity to prove all of those who have doubted me wrong. I have always dreams of becoming a pilot after growing up on Air Force bases and seeing the fighter jets fly over my backyard. I thank the Able Flight program as well as the donors and sponsors because if it weren’t for them, we might not have had this opportunity. I hope that others will continue to apply to the program so that they can experience a major confidence boost, as well as earning a pilot certificate and making lifelong friends. None of this would be possible without the donors and sponsors, so I would hope that the donations would continue as they are giving life changing gifts and experiences.


General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

One of my favorite things is to watch the transformation that happens in the lives of Able Flight program participants. Each summer, 6 people appear at the Purdue airport to participate in the Able Flight flight training; they work very hard, and depart weeks later as changed, empowered and confident pilots. They stand, or sit, a little higher when they leave.

It's not just those 6 individuals who are changed and enriched. The families of the flight students, the Purdue student flight instructors, and anyone who connects with the program all benefit. I talk about Able Flight frequently - with my kids, friends, students, and family - almost all of whom take our own health and even mobility for granted much of the time. I'm very proud of each of the program participants and instructors, and grateful to the Able Flight executive leaders. Charles Stites is one of those rare people who makes great things happen for others. Able Flight is a top tier nonprofit organization.


Rating: 5

As a flight instructor for Able Flight, I had a tremendous opportunity to help teach others with disabilities to fly. In my experience as a flight instructor, I have never worked with more dedicated students. All of the students and instructors stuck together as a group the entire time while we were in the airplane, in ground school, or just hanging out.

Not only were the students awesome, Able Flight as an organization was behind us the entire time. For example, when we had a maintenance delay with an airplane, Able Flight made sure that we had the part there as soon as possible to finish the students. Their dedication to the students is made apparent by the fact that every student going through the program at Purdue has finished earning their license.

I made friendships that I know will last a lifetime, and teaching these students taught me a great deal as well. Watching my student take off on his first solo made every bit of work worth it. It really allows the student to leave their disability on the ground, and lets them join every pilot in feeling some of the greatest freedom in the world. I would definitely recommend this organization!