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

After the accident, those sky-blue dreams took a back seat to more pressing challenges. Then, more than two decades later, a friend from her water ski team called to tell her about Able Flight.

You read right: water ski. After her injury, Glassing had decided she would never accept confinement to sedentary life in a wheelchair. She learned, bit by bit, the skills that would earn her a berth on the USA Disabled Water ski Team. She even broke her leg in a crash landing during competition, but added enough points to help her team become 1999 World Disabled Water Ski champions. In time, she became USA National Ladies Sit Ski Jump Champion.

Glassing has also served as a peer counselor at Atlanta's Shepherd Center, a not-for-profit hospital specializing in spinal cord and brain injury treatment and rehabilitation. Then came the call about Able Flight.

"The funny thing was," she recalls, "my friend had no idea I wanted to fly. He just thought as a water ski jumper that I might want to. I always liked the flying aspect of jumping. So I got online, read about the program, contacted Able Flight, and a few months later, got a scholarship!"

That was in 2006. Her training began with the Hansen Group's Italian-made tandem Sky Arrow, fitted with an all-hand-control disabled pilots kit.

"Now, I'm not a technical thinker—I'm an artist," she says of her training. "So I had to learn how to think like pilots think, and learn the language."

Her flight instructor would joke that his biggest challenge was thinking of creative ways to explain flight concepts in a visual way for her.

"It doesn't do me any good to read," she says. "Unless I could jump in the airplane right after reading something and go practice, I just did not understand any of it. I had to be hands on, totally visual all the time. Once I understood the concept and what was happening, though, I was fine."


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