Able Flight Strengthens Collegiate Aviation Presence Through SIU Carbondale Partnership


The Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale School of Aviation has partnered with Able Flight to provide specialized flight training led by SIU Aviation instructors beginning in May.

Founded in 2006, Able Flight’s mission is to “provide people with disabilities a unique way to challenge themselves through flight and aviation career training, and by doing so, to gain greater self-confidence and self-reliance.”

Able Flight Executive Director Charles Stites said the organization reached out to SIU following the success it found at Purdue University, where Able Flight got its start in higher education.

In a press release, College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Robert Morgan emphasized SIU Carbondale’s commitment to inclusivity, highlighting shared values in creating opportunities for all. “We are grateful to Able Flight for supporting students with specialized aircraft and scholarships, and we look forward to Able Flight Scholars joining the Saluki family,” Morgan said.

Able Flight will choose five scholarship recipients from its pool of applicants to undergo training in new, custom-adapted Vashon Ranger Light Sport Aircraft to earn their Sport Pilot certificates. SIU aviation faculty began transition training in the aircraft on March 29, while the installation of specialized controls for the aircraft will start in late April before the students arrive on campus.

Upon completion of the 2024 training session, SIU and Able Flight will evaluate the program’s success in order to expand upon it in the coming years.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. An acquaintance of mine with the Cardinal Flyers group has modified two different Cardinals for his use (paraplegic). It is interesting to hear him talk about the equipment changes needed to fly both the fixed gear and retractable versions of the plane. He likes the Cardinal because of its wide opening doors and no strut to get in the way. He can preflight the plane and get both he and his collapsible wheelchair into the plane without assistance. Pretty amazing to watch. I wish Able Flight and SIU success in their endeavor.