Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Light-Sport Chronicles: Spine Of Steel

Some of us never know what we’re made of until everything’s taken away

I think everybody on this earth, whether they know it or not, is ultimately trying to achieve freedom from whatever is caging them in. —Stephany Glassing

Her name is Stephany Glassing. She has already had a life of achievement: champion waterskiier, talented graphic designer and artist with her own business, and a mother who raised a daughter to graduate from high school, then college. One more thing: She just earned her sport-pilot wings. And she did it all from a wheelchair.

I met Glassing at the Hansen Air Group booth at Sebring's Light Sport Expo in January 2013. Bright, energetic, full of charm and good cheer, she was beaming about her first long cross-country flight, into the busy Sebring air show no less, in a specially modified Sky Arrow S-LSA.

I've written about Able Flight before, but all good stories bear repeating, so here's the short tell: It's a donation-funded organization that offers full scholarships to disabled people who want to fly a light-sport aircraft.

The Hansen family has been a big part of Able Flight from the beginning. They're all career aviators, from twin brothers Jon and Ron Hansen (retired airline captains) to Jon's twin sons Mike and Mitch (current professional pilots).

In 1984, Stephany Glassing was living the active life of a popular teenager in Melbourne, Fla. One night, she left a bar with friends. Everybody was drunk. The driver wanted to "play chicken" by careening the car faster and faster through the streets. Glassing, though an admitted "adrenaline junkie," was scared. She pummeled the driver with her fists, begging him to slow down.

He ignored her, sped around a curve too fast, and the rear wheel hit the curb. The car flipped, ejecting Galssing, then landed on top of her.

Three days later, she awoke, looked up at the hospital room ceiling and cried, "Oh, God, where am I at, this isn't my bedroom!" She had just turned 19.

We humans are curious creatures. We can let something as trivial as letting a parking ticket ruin our whole day, then turn right around to laugh at fate itself when our backs are against the wall. Stephany Glassing didn't give up on life. She let loose her inner tiger to take on the world.

"I had had childhood dreams about flying, as a flight attendant, then an astronaut. My mom worked with NASA, so I was surrounded by astronauts at a young age," Glassing recalls.


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