Sunday, April 23, 2006

REMEMBER Who Helped You..the Flight School

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Part of overcoming adversity is REMEMBERING who helped you along the way. About two years ago I was at a speaking engagement in upper Michigan where I met another speaker named Donna Moore. The meeting planner placed the two of us at the same table close to the podium. We hit off immediately and became fast friends. I told her that we met for a reason but I didn't know why. She agreed.

Several months went by and we exchanged a ton of emails to stay in touch. I was working part-time at an airport in Michigan as a flight line specialist to fill the gaps between major speaking engagements. The company I worked for began to experience adversity of their own due to escalating fuel prices and stiff competition from the county government, also co-located at the airport. They were significantly undercutting fuel prices, causing traffic to flow to them.

One day my boss came to me and announced that he was going to have to lay off some people and I was one of them. This caused me to send out a flurry of resumes to people like Donna Moore for distribution to potential part-time employers.

You never know, I said to myself.

Little did I know what was about to transpire.

Donna decided to send a copy of my resume to friends of hers who owned and operated American Winds Flight Academy based at Akron Fulton Intl Airport in Akron, OH. Her friend, Denise Hobart is the Chief Pilot and owner of the school. Denise's husband, Mike Kolomichuk, is its president. They are the ones in the picture on the upper left corner. Don't they make a cute, irresistible couple?

When they first looked at my resume, they told Donna they were not in a position to hire me BUT somehow my dream of becoming the first deaf instrument rated pilot came up. At first Denise balked and said, "NO WAY!" She actually laughed at the idea as totally absurd. She's a veteran pilot herself and knows how difficult the instrument rating is for hearing pilots. How could a deaf pilot learn how to fly on instruments without hearing the radio?

Despite this, they invited me to come down to the flight academy and meet them in person anyway. In February 2005 I decided I would rent an airplane and fly there. I visited with them for several hours and then flew back home.

What I didn't know is that this visit got the wheels of my dream moving. Mike and Denise came away from the meeting changed people. No longer were they laughing at the prospect of creating America's first deaf instrument rated pilot. They were impressed with my enthusiasm, sense of humor, passion and sheer determination. They were convinced that it was indeed possible because I Have a passion for aviation. It made them want to be a part of a dream come true. Do you see what passion can do for you?

At first we tried to get sponsors to foot the flight training but when that failed, Mike and Denise invited me back down to tell me in person that they would foot the bill themselves. I'll never forget their parting words before I went back up to Michigan (where I lived at the time).

Mike said, "Don't worry about the money, we'll make it happen."

Denise piped up later that night and was a little more blunt: "If you want to live your dreams, get your ass down here!"

I was floored. Never before had anyone reached out to me like that. I took it as a sign that it was time to get moving so I hurriedly packed all my belongings in a 14-foot UHaul truck and moved to Akron, OH before they could change their mind.

That was October 2005. They were true to their word. Five months later on February 24, 2006 I became the World's First Deaf Instrument Rated pilot. As a result of all the hard work we put into the training, we received worldwide publicity and appeared in the print media in places like France, Ireland, Korea, Australia, Germany and London.

On the immediate left is a picture of my primary flight instructor, Jason Edwards, with his son right next to him. He also deserves credit and recognition for training me on how to be an instrument rated pilot. Jason has extraordinary communication skills coupled with patience the likes I've never seen before. He knew exactly when to praise me as well as when to give me constructive suggestions. Like I've mentioned in earlier posts, he had his hands full as my flight instructor. Not only did he have to train me how to fly by reference to the instruments (with me using the view-limiting device - see earlier post for link to a picture of one), but he also had to monitor outside traffic, communicate with air traffic controllers and write it all down on a dry erase board in a timely manner for me to read and act upon. Kudos to Jason for taking on the challenging role of a deaf pilot's instrument flight instructor! My achievement is only only a feather in American Wind's cap but also in HIS cap as well.

Today's blog entry is dedicated to Mike Kolomichuk, Denise Hobart and Jason Edwards of American Winds Flight Academy based at Akron Fulton International Airport in Akron, OH.
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