Purdue University’s Able Flight helps those with disabilities fly high

Sometimes at 101 Mobility, we run across local stories that positively delight us. This is one of those Indiana stories we couldn’t wait to share.

Able Flight, is a North Carolina-based nonprofit organization devoted to aviation career training for people with physical disabilities, and it has a training center at Purdue University in Lafayette Indiana. As a primary partner and training site for Able Flight, this is Purdue’s 8th year running a six-week summer training program for the organization.

Because we frequently work with families of disabled students and those who are newly mobility-challenged, we see first-hand how frustrating it is to have a physical issue that prevents one from enjoying access, travel, entertainment and education. Able Flight at Purdue University is helping to change some of these perceived restrictions.

Able Flight students fly specially designed planes like the Sky Arrow LSA. These planes are adapted with hand controls in place of foot pedals for those who cannot use their legs. Instructors sit behind students as they learn to master the controls.

Students in this year’s program include a student who became paralyzed from the waist down after breaking his spine during a skiing accident, and a young man who became a quadriplegic as a result of a shooting accident. Both young men love traveling and adventure and were thrilled to hear about the scholarships available for Purdue’s flight program. They will train with seven other students from across the country to earn a light sport pilot’s license at Purdue University this summer.

Even the assistant program coordinator for Purdue’s Able Flight, Wesley Major, teaches from his wheelchair after a motorcycle injury left him permanently disabled. Major completed the program himself in 2012 and went back to Purdue afterwards to earn his master’s degree in aviation and aerospace management. Now working towards his PhD, Majors wants to become a consultant for commercial airlines and improve the flying experience for disabled passengers.

101 Mobility salutes Purdue’s Able Flight program. We love that it is intentionally challenging as well as liberating for students with disabilities. It’s a great way to boost self-confidence, break through travel barriers, and gain the feeling of freedom that comes from flying a plane.


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