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Flight1’s innovative approach uses the joy of flight to build confidence in children who face health challenges or have lost an immediate family member to illness. How do we do it?

The first step usually takes place in an advanced full-motion flight simulator. The Courageous Flier learns about working with an instructor, gets the feel of the controls, and earns a set of wings to recognize his or her entry into the program.

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Later there is a flight in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. The Courageous Flier meets the pilot and takes part in preparations such as the weather briefing and aircraft inspection. Then it’s time to fly!

From the very beginning the child is in control of the flight. Under the guidance of a Certified Flight Instructor, the Courageous Flier pushes in the throttle, speeds down the runway and pulls back on the yoke to lift the Skyhawk off the ground. As children work the controls it becomes clear what is possible and what they are capable of doing. It can be an amazingly powerful moment in a child’s life when a hesitant “Can I?” becomes a confident “I can!”

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After landing, the child signs the logbook and we recognize their accomplishments by presenting a certificate documenting their flight and simulator session. The child also receives a photo taken on their event day.

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It doesn’t end there – a child is encouraged to participate for up to three years. Our ongoing flight-related activities – all focused on further building confidence – foster a sense of fun and anticipation for the kids. Another benefit is that becoming part of the aviation community helps build an additional support system for participants and their families.

Flight1 also continously measures and evaluates the Courageous Fliers program to ensure maximum effectiveness.

– Russell Goutierez

Photos by Steven Fleenor