Saturday, January 29, 2011

Disabled pilots take to south Florida air this weekend

From NBC Miami:

You might think flying a plane is one of the things people in wheelchairs can't do. Their message from high above the Earth: think again.

Challenge Air, a program designed to show physically challenged youngsters possibilities, takes flight this weekend, giving them a chance to soar -- and leave not just the ground, but any feeling of limitation behind them.

Lani Day, a Florida International student, has been confined to a wheelchair since she was hurt in a terrible car accident that claimed the life of a friend. She is now taking her second ride with pilot Evan Piper, a man who knows all about what she and other young people are going through: Piper is confined to a wheelchair himself.

"To see what I can do to motivate people in that situation," he said, " really one of my overall objectives."

Piper was pilot before he was hurt, and after his accident modified his plane. One of just a handful of physically disabled pilots given a license to fly by the government, this weekend he and 30 non-disabled pilots will be flying 100 kids who would normally not have a chance.

"The idea is to get 'em out there and flying and get them out of the house and motivated."

This is the second year Piper has participated, and often, he says, passengers see him and ask, "You're the pilot?"

"Once they see I am flying," he said, "that initial shock turns into inspiration."

Day said she has learned a lot from Challenge Air: "Just enjoy life. There is no limit to what you can do."