Flying gives man freedom

COLUMBUS – To earn a pilot’s license is a great accomplishment, and to overcome additional obstacles to obtain the privilege of flight is a tremendous feat.

Randy Bonczynski overcame the loss of movement in his legs and received his license Tuesday.

“Tuesday was the day and it feels fantastic,” Bonczynski said. “It is a dream come true and a

goal reached.”

Growing up, he observed others flying and wanted to reach those heights.

“I have just always been interested in flying. When I was growing up I would just watch crop dusters and airplanes flying over the farm. I built model airplanes. … It was always a dream,” he said. “I just always thought a pilot was one of the finest things you could ever be.”

But when Bonczynski was younger his adventurous nature resulted in a life altering injury. At the age of 23, he was involved in a stock car racing accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury paralyzing him from the waist down.

Now, 26 years later, after nearly a year of training, Bonczynski has greater mobility through flight, but his only regret is that he didn’t learn to fly sooner.

“I just waited too long … because the younger you are when you learn to fly the more years you get to take advantage of the pilot’s license,” Bonczynski said. His recommendation for others is “you have to have the desire and the means to get the license, and the earlier you get it the longer you have to enjoy it.”

Earning a pilot’s license is an extraordinary achievement, but because of his physical condition, he said his physical ability was scrutinized a little more than other potential pilots.

“Because I am in a wheelchair,” Bonczynski said, “they scrutinized (my medical requirement) more than anyone else.”

Also, he had to fly with a Federal Aviation Administration examiner instead of a federally authorized check pilot, but the rest of his training was the same as any other pilot.

“My ground training and flight training were the same as anyone else,” he said, “except I fly with hand controls for the rudder when anyone else uses their feet.”

Bonczynski said he could not have accomplished this dream without the support of his friends and family and contributions of Tom Bernstein and Tom Schwank, who are partners in the plane they and Bonczynski own.

“Without the partners I wouldn’t have been able to make it come true,” he said.

Now that he has his license, Bonczynski said he plans to take trips to surrounding states.

“Denver is going to be one of my first longer trips and possibly Texas,” he said. “I like that I can jump in the plane and be there in a couple hours instead of an all-day deal driving.”

Bonczynski said the greatest thing about having earned his license is the freedom he has.

“There are no physical barriers when flying in the sky,” he said, “just the freedom and sheer feeling of being in the air and looking down on the world. The bounds of being in a wheelchair melt away when you are in the air.”

By Adrian Sanchez
Copyright © 2006 Columbus Telegram

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