The Liberty Gazette
November 3, 2009
November 3, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: From www.AbleFlight.org comes this heart-warming story: “It may have been one of the smallest aircraft he has flown, and off a runway far shorter than those at McGuire AFB, but Major Tom Marquardt's return to the pilot's seat on September 19th was a milestone in his more than 20 year career as a military and airline pilot. It was the day that he returned to flying after the loss of his right leg due to a deep vein thrombosis. For a man who has flown huge C-17's into both Iraq and Afghanistan, and B-757s and 767s internationally, the small Sky Arrow LSA offered him the chance for a huge step toward his goal of returning to the cockpit of an airliner.”
After his first flight as a pilot since 2007, Marquardt said, “Getting back at the controls and flying hands-on gave me the same exhilarating feeling I had the very first time and every flight since. Some people may take that for granted, but once you have been unable to do something you love for reasons beyond your control, it gives you a new perspective.”
Tommy was ten years old in 1976 when he and his family visited to the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC–the year the museum opened. He was mesmerized by the historic aircraft displays hanging just inside the door. Later that same day, says Able Flight, “he and his family watched C-5 Galaxy cargo planes landing at Dover AFB in Delaware; foreshadowing his career flying really ‘big iron’.” Fast forward twelve years, after training first in gliders and then T-41s (a military trainer version of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk), Tom Marquardt graduated from the Air Force Academy. He flew Cessna-built T-37 ‘Tweet’ jet trainers and the Northrop-built T-38 Talon supersonic jet trainers at Vance AFB, and later C-141 Starlifters out of California and New Jersey. Then, in the Air Force Reserves, he flew the Boeing C-17 Globemaster until 2007 when he lost his leg.
Linda: Tom and his wife Rebecca, and their three children live near the airport in Woodbine, New Jersey, where Able Flight pilot Sean O'Donnell, owner of Philly Sport Pilot, offers training in his Sky Arrow. Sean arranged for Major Marquardt to fly with instructor and former Navy F-4 Phantom pilot Tom Callahan.
On that first day of training a video crew from New Screen Concepts, a production company, came and recorded scenes for a series to air on the Military Channel. Earlier in the week the TV crew visited with Tom in his home for interviews, and now his first flight back at the controls was being captured for history. After the New Screen crew completed their work, Major Marquardt was scheduled for an extensive series of training and familiarization flights with Callahan, courtesy of his Able Flight Scholarship. Marquardt thanked those who support Able Flight “for making this possible for me. I couldn't have done this without their support.”
Able Flight is supported by the generous donations and sponsorships of individuals, foundations and corporations.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.