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Empowering Wings: Able Flight and SIU Aviation Transform Lives

Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Able Flight program is making aviation dreams a reality for individuals with disabilities. Ian Azeredo, hailing from Ringwood, New Jersey, embodies this journey of resilience and triumph. Following a life-altering skydiving accident that left him in a coma for two months, Azeredo embraced the challenge of learning to pilot a specially adapted Vashon Ranger Light Sport airplane. His successful solo flights at Southern Illinois Airport signify not only personal achievement but also the profound impact of overcoming adversity through incremental steps and unwavering determination.

Able Flight at SIU Carbondale isn't just about flying—it's about empowerment. Azeredo is one of five students who received scholarships through Able Flight, allowing them to immerse themselves in comprehensive training and reside on campus. This intensive program, culminating this week, showcases the dedication of Azeredo, Natallia Mirashnichenka, Jake Simmons, Andrew Daigneau, and Jordan Sprague, as they work towards obtaining their pilot licenses. Their journey underscores the transformative power of education and specialized support in enabling individuals with disabilities to reach new heights in aviation.

The collaboration between Able Flight and SIU's School of Aviation underscores a commitment to inclusivity and opportunity. By providing tailored training and fostering a supportive community, the program ensures that aspiring pilots can overcome physical challenges and fulfill their aspirations in aviation. Each successful flight by Azeredo and his fellow students not only defies expectations but also inspires others with disabilities to pursue their passions and achieve their dreams, proving that the sky is truly limitless.

As Ian Azeredo reflects on his journey—from the brink of tragedy to the thrill of solo flight—he embodies the spirit of Able Flight and SIU Aviation's mission to empower individuals with disabilities through aviation. Their collective success not only celebrates personal triumphs but also paves the way for a more inclusive and accessible future in the skies above.

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