The Liberty Gazette
November 10, 2009
November 10, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: The fly-in event sponsored by the Houston Chapter Ninety-Nines was a great success, and since Able Flight is a beneficiary of Ninety-Nines’ fund raising we think this warrants another week featuring a recipient of Able Flight scholarships.
Just six months ago Rob Laurent passed his check ride, becoming Able Flight’s 11th licensed pilot – the second wounded veteran to earn his pilot certificate with an Able Flight scholarship. According to Able Flight’s Executive Director, Charles Stites, Rob was serving as a Tank Armor Crewman when he was severely injured during an IED ambush near Samarra, Iraq on Christmas Eve, 2004. Evacuated first to Germany and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he lost an eye and suffered a partially amputated left hand as the result of the explosion.
In 2007, he was encouraged to apply for an Able Flight scholarship by an outreach officer of the Wounded Warrior Project. In 2008 he graduated from Texas State University with a degree in criminal justice while serving as an intern for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Rob’s flight training began at AirVenture in 2007, but a temporary problem with his remaining eye delayed his progress so he returned to Texas to finish college. He then moved to Florida and resumed training with instructor Bryan Woodard of U.S. Sport Aircraft, flying a SportCruiser off a grass runway at Hibiscus Airport near Vero Beach. Flying near the Florida coastline provided Rob with the valuable experience of learning to deal with the effects of crosswinds in a light sport airplane.
Since earning his pilot’s certificate, Rob and his family have moved to Kansas City where he is now teaching as he works toward a 2nd master’s degree. While he’s accomplished a great deal already, Rob Laurent looks forward to the day he makes his first flight into AirVenture at Oshkosh as a licensed pilot.
Linda: Back in June, Jessica Scharle and her former flight instructor, Matt Hansen, set a transcontinental speed record for flight in a Light Sport Airplane (LSA). Within a single day, the pair flew from Jacksonville, Florida to El Cajon, California, demonstrating LSAs as a viable mode of transportation for long distance flight, and drawing attention to the scholarship program for people with physical disabilities.
Jessica, a 24-year old Sport Pilot, was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, a condition that essentially fused all of her joints together. She has overcome many obstacles in her young life and has taken on challenges, such as flying, that many would not attempt. Flying a Peregrine FA-04, a factory-built Special-Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) which carries just under thirty gallons of fuel, the crew alternated flying duties along their 1813.5 nautical mile route from Florida to California.
Jessica was the first female Able Flight Scholarship recipient to earn her pilot certificate, and she shared equally in the piloting on this historic trip. They have applied to the Guinness Book of World Records for an official record.
Mike: We hope these four weeks of highlighting personal stories of Able Flight pilots have been inspiring, and we encourage you to visit their website again and again, www.AbleFlight.org, for more stories of people who have succeeded in the face of great challenges.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.