Most homebuilt aircraft start life in a damp basement or shared garage, but the next project for the Aerospace Center for Excellence will begin right in the open at Sun ‘n Fun. And while students from the Central Florida Aerospace Academy and Lakeland Aero Club will begin work on the CH750 during the airshow in April, it’s not expected to be completed during the week.
It’s not a race to finish the experimental and it’s not just to teach metalworking skills, either. This CH750 will be modified to accommodate student pilots with physical disabilities and become a trainer for the Able Flight program, which also trains pilots out of Ohio State University and Perdue.
“Our mission at ACE is to engage, educate and accelerate the next generation of aerospace professionals,” says Ed Young, executive director. “Able Flight’s success in engaging and educating individuals with disabilities in flight training is unparalleled. We have the opportunity to truly change lives by combining our core competencies.”
As for the aircraft itself, “The plan is to build the airplane in the Buehler Restoration Center on the ACE campus during the 2019 Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In and with the help of the Lakeland Aero Club, the youth flying club on the ACE campus, after the fly-in,” Young says. “We are planning to name the aircraft the ‘Spirit of Lakeland.'”
Charles Stites is the executive director of Able Flight and says ACE came to them with the idea for the build. “We were approached by ACE staff at Oshkosh last year about this project. We’re very impressed with the attitude of the ACE staff, and their interest in wanting to make their program more diverse,” he says.
Modifications to the CH750 will include a second stick to control the rudder pedals, which also are connected to the nosewheel on the Zenith; this second stick has a hydraulic brake control and a switch to control a servo-operated throttle, enabling pilots to control the airplane just by hand.
Zenith’s Sebastien Heintz says that “the CH 750 is proving to be an excellent platform for hand control adaptation for pilots with disabilities. It has two large doors and large cabin area, making it accessible from either side, while allowing for relatively easy transfer from wheelchair to cockpit. The large rear baggage area allows for storage of a wheelchair (important to many handicapped pilots, giving them independence). We’re proud to be supports of Able Flight.”
Able Flight has awarded more than 100 scholarships since its founding in 2006, and has announced 10 scholarships for 2019 alone. Able Flight’s Stites sums up the goals succinctly: “When we talk about individuals with disabilities becoming pilots, the tendency is to talk about the obstacles they’ve overcome. That’s now how they see it. They’re not pilots with a disability, just pilots. They call it freedom.”