Purdue Polytechnic helps disabled earn their pilot wings

June 11, 2015  


Wulie Plane

An aviation industry donor is buying Purdue University a new Sky Arrow L600 sport plane to help the aviation technology department train disabled would-be pilots through the Able Flight program. Purdue is also working with corporate partners to train and place handicapped individuals in the aviation industry. (Giotto Air photo)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Aviation industry representatives will be at Purdue University Airport at 1 p.m. Friday (June 12) to explore ways to better train and recruit disabled people into the aviation industry.

Purdue instructors are currently training four disabled student pilots as part of the Able Flight program that has helped dozens of disabled pilots solo and earn sport pilot certificates. The aviation technology department will host representatives of companies such as Republic Airways, Envoy Air, General Electric, and Directional Aviation Capital for an open brainstorming forum. Aviation industry entrepreneur, executive and investor Kenneth C. Ricci is buying a specially-equipped Sky Arrow L600 to help Purdue expand the program, which is limited in part by the need to lease the lightweight planes in which the students train.

Purdue is hosting four students this summer. Three are at least partially paralyzed and two are U.S. military veterans. The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes is expected to fund Able Flight scholarships for veterans severely disabled in the War on Terror. Several such veterans have already successfully completed the Able Flight program.

One Able Flight graduate, Wesley Major, is forging his aviation career by now running the program that taught him to fly. Since earning his pilot certificate, Major, a paraplegic, has pursued a master’s degree in aviation & aerospace management from Purdue, where he is a graduate research assistant. He hopes to spend several years in industry before returning to academia.

Writer: Jim Schenke, 765-237-7296, jschenke@purdue.edu

Sources: Wes Major, Purdue AbleFlight program, wmajor@purdue.edu

Bernard Wulle, associate professor, aviation technology, 765-494-9973, wulleb@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: For more information, including access to photographs, B-Roll, and sound bites, contact Jim Schenke, Purdue News Service, 765-237-7296 or jschenke@purdue.edu 

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