The Liberty Gazette
October 27, 2009
October 27, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Linda: Held annually in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, AirVenture, the world’s largest convention, is where new aviation products are introduced and timeless treasures are honored. This year Able Flight held a special ceremony there to recognize the achievements of new pilots–Able Flight Scholarship winners. Pilots Jessica Cox, Jeremy Maddox and Mal Zackery received their hard-earned Able Flight Wings. These pilots dedicated themselves to meeting the challenge of learning to fly. Special guests included previous scholarship winners along with 101 year-old Captain Joe Grant, Aviation Hall of Fame members and representatives from Cessna and other aircraft companies.
Three-time national aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff pinned wings on Jessica Cox while her instructor, Parrish Traweek, watched proudly. Having been born without arms, Jessica learned to fly in Traweek's Ercoupe 415-C. Jessica is now the only pilot licensed to fly using only her feet to manipulate the controls.
After soloing in only 11 hours, Jeremy Maddox earned his Sport Pilot certificate in a total of 37 hours. CNN’s former technology corresponded Miles O'Brien had the honor of presenting Jeremy with his wings.
Air show great and Red Bull Air Racer Michael Goulian introduced Able Flight’s newest pilot, 29 year-old Mallory “Mal” Zackery of Georgia. Thanks to a grant from the TBM Owner Pilots Association Foundation, Mal became Able Flight’s 12th scholarship recipient to earn a pilot certificate. Less than two years after being shot by a robber and paralyzed, Mal earned his pilot certificate training with instructor Matt Hansen of Hansen Air Group in an adapted Sky Arrow Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).
In October of 2007, Mal, a district manager for a chain of stores, was making a night deposit when he was shot. The 2003 graduate of Mercer University was treated first in Alabama, then at Shepherd Center near his Atlanta-area home. In his scholarship application essay, he wrote: “I heard of the Able Flight Scholarships when I was an inpatient at Shepherd Center, at a time when I was both physically and mentally down. It was as though a world of possibilities opened up to me. Before hearing of the program, I thought, along with everything else in my life, my dream of flying was gone. Learning how to fly an airplane will prove to me, and others, that this is not the end, that I don't have to be simply that ‘person in a wheelchair.’ I can continue to live and learn, to grow and mature. Most importantly, I believe that the Able Flight Scholarship will help me on my way to becoming fully self-confident and self-reliant.”
Mike: After months of study and hard work, Mal achieved his goal, but not without a little excitement. On a practice checkride near the end of his training, an electrical problem caused the plane to lose power. Volunteer instructor Mike Davidson performed a perfect dead-stick landing on a four lane highway in Atlanta. Mal assisted in front seat by throwing switches. Even though there wasn't a scratch on anyone or anything, that experience may have altered many student pilots’ outlook. However Mal was soon back in the air, and less than a month later, is the proud owner of a new pilot’s license.
There’s a shared belief in the power of aviation to change lives. Able Flight, Matt Hansen, Mal Zackery, and the TBMOPA Foundation are among those believers.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.