Disabled Pilot Plans to Pass Along 'Fantastic Gift' to Others
February 6, 2008 — Sean O’Donnell (EAA 831911) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, became the second Able Flight scholarship recipient to earn a sport pilot certificate when he passed his checkride on opening day of EAA AirVenture last year. Able Flight awards flight-training scholarships to people with physical disabilities so they can become sport pilots.
Now O’Donnell is looking to pass on that gift of flight by starting his own flight school, Philly Sport Pilot, LLC. Located at historic Wings Field (N67) just north of Philadelphia, Philly Sport Pilot is scheduled to open this month and begin providing flight training towards sport pilot and private pilot certificates to both disabled and able-bodied student pilots.
“When I was awarded the Able Flight scholarship, I truly felt that it was a fantastic gift,” O’Donnell said. “But I also felt that I was charged with a duty - to work as hard as I can to pass this gift on to others. The best way I could do that was to provide flying resources for people with disabilities in the Northeast, particularly, Philadelphia.”
Soon after his checkride last July, O’Donnell was negotiating to purchase an Italian-made Sky Arrow 600 S-LSA, the same type he trained in. The aircraft, distributed by Able Flight sponsor Hansen Air Group, can be ordered with factory-installed controls that enable it to be flown entirely by hand. The fully certificated special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA) is made from carbon fiber and powered by a 100-hp Rotax engine. Its digital avionics and instrumentation allow the Sky Arrow to be used for both sport and private pilot training.
“Sean’s decision to create his own flight school is an outstanding example of ‘paying it forward’,” said Charles Stites, Able Flight founder and executive director. “He has created a second training location where we can send Able Flight scholarship winners.” Philly Sport Pilot’s first flight student will be a man who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident a little over a year ago, Stites added.
The Able Flight Scholarship covers ground school, flight training, travel, and lodging. The scholarship is not only for disabled people who want to learn how to fly, but also for certificated pilots who have become disabled and wish to return to flying as sport pilots. Able Flight has awarded 12 scholarships since its first two scholarships were awarded in December of 2006.