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Man uses Able Flight to check items off his bucket list

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An Able Flight participant will get to check two items off his bucket list after completing the program at Purdue.

In 2009, Steven Scott, from Poway, Calif., sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident that left him paralyzed. After, he created a list of items he wanted to complete during his life – skydive, scuba dive, show his daughter the exotic places he has lived and get his sport pilot certificate.

He described his accident as a painful sensory and emotional overload. After feeling dejected for a while, Scott made his list.

“You can go down one road or the other,” Scott said. “You can shut yourself off, or, you can embrace it and go out and do things. Make sure you pack (life) in a little better. Don’t let it slide by.”

One way Scott is embracing life is by participating in the Able Flight program. The program teaches its participants with disabilities how to fly planes; they will receive their sport pilot certificate if they pass the course.

Since arriving for the flight and ground training program for those with disabilities on May 19, Scott has accomplished two items on his list – skydiving and completing the pilot certificate.

“(Skydiving) was exhilarating,” Scott said. “I thought it would be a really big feeling of speed … but I never really experienced anything more than a stiff breeze. I didn’t feel like the world was rushing up at me. It was peaceful.”

Through the program, he has also added an item to his list. He plans to learn sign language with his daughter because he was inspired by a fellow Able Flight student, who is deaf.

Being away from his daughter and wife is one of the most difficult obstacles Scott has had to overcome during his six weeks at Purdue. He compared the dorm room he stays in to a hospital room.

“Psychologically, (being away from family) was the biggest challenge,” Scott said. “The dorms are hospital-like … I spent almost a year in a hospital. I try not to spend a lot of time in my dorm room.”

But Scott plans to continue visiting hospitals when he returns to California with his certificate to be an example for others in similar situations as himself. Before attending the program, he would visit patients to show them the equipment he has to assist him — such as his wheelchair and accessible van. Now, he will be able to discuss his certification to fly.

“I want to give them hope and talk about what they can do,” Scott said. “I try to be an ambassador. This is just another tool.”

Bernard Wulle, coordinator of the Able Flight program, said Scott was accepted into the program because of his passion for flight before his accident, as well as the work he does to help others.

Able Flight participants are taught by Purdue student flight instructors. Each student learns in six weeks what a Purdue student would learn in 16. This year, six students are at Purdue for the program and most will have taken their final flight tests by Saturday.

“They come pretty prepared,” Wulle said. “They’re very motivated and really, it makes things a lot easier.”

By TARA SIPPLES Managing Editor

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