Those who have experienced the wonder of flight know that as the ground falls away, so do many of our cares and worries. Such was the case as Ashaya, age 15, and her brother Dacian, 7, earned their Flight1 wings to become the organization’s latest Courageous Fliers. The siblings recently took to the skies with flight instructor Caleb Franks and Flight1 founder Marcus Strawhorn as part of the charity’s ongoing discovery program for children whose families are affected by serious or critical illnesses.
It was hot but a great day for flying, with calm winds and good visibility. Ashaya was hesitant at first, declaring she didn’t ride roller coasters or fly airplanes. As far as she was concerned, her brother could do all the flying. He was more than ready; in fact, Dacian seemed ready for a Blue Angels tryout, saying he had some aerobatics planned. Caleb walked them through what to expect and by flight time, the roles had reversed. Dacian took the back seat and Ashaya sat up front with Caleb, who informed the young lady that he would like her to make the takeoff!
On the runway, Caleb throttled up and offered Ashaya the controls of the Cessna 172. After a moment of hesitation, she accepted the challenge and took the yoke. Once airborne, Caleb took over to clear the airport area but soon turned the airplane back over to Ashaya. With the instructor’s coaching, she made her way to the high school where she’s a freshman this year. Using it as a landmark, she located the siblings’ house and was excited at being able to find her way around from the air. It was Ashaya’s airplane for most of the flight, and her faith in her piloting abilities grew so quickly it reminded Marcus of a Greek proverb: “There is no need to teach an eagle to fly.”
For his part, Dacian remained glued to the window throughout the thirty-minute flight. He and Ashaya were both fascinated by how different things look from altitude, like a huge tractor facility packed with bright yellow equipment. By the time Caleb landed, both the siblings were amped up over the experience.
Flight1 strives to bring joy and confidence to the children it serves, and if Ashaya’s adventurous spirit in the cockpit or the smile on Dacian’s face are any indication, mission accomplished!
Photo: Steven Fleenor