From Richard Fucci, President of Freedom's Wings Int'l :
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Freedom's Wings International which certainly is a time for both celebration and reflection.
The idea of Freedom's Wings was conceived at a mall in New Jersey. Irv Soble, a United Airlines pilot, and Mary DeAngelo, a glider pilot, were tending a static glider display at an aviation exhibit in the mall. They talked with people who stopped by about flying and soaring in particular. A woman in a wheelchair approached them and said wistfully … "I have always wanted to fly but have been imprisoned in this wheelchair for 25 years. I'd love to get in that glider and fly away." Irv and Mary were touched by this woman's comments and offered to arrange a glider ride for her. But she did not want just a ride. Her dream was to learn to fly. This encounter inspired Irv and Mary to find a way for persons with disabilities to fly a glider. And thus in 1981 Freedom's Wings International was incorporated.
Our club is organized as a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit corporation so that funds raised to support our programs would be tax deductible to donors. Freedom's Wings has depended entirely upon the generosity of its members as well as organizations and friends to support its activities over the past three decades. Volunteers are at the heart of Freedom's Wings which would have ceased to exist without their tireless efforts on a myriad of tasks from writing grants to assisting on the flight lines; from organizing and participating in our outreach events to producing this newsletter. We are grateful to all who have served FWI in its mission of providing soaring opportunities to persons with disabilities.
Over the past three years there has been a significant transformation of our club. "Safety first with fun to follow" has been our mantra. Our aircraft have been superbly maintained and equipped with the latest avionics to promote safer flying. Pilot training and proficiency are at a very high standard thanks to the dedication and skills of our certified flight instructors. Our numerous outreach events in the northeast have introduced many persons with disabilities to the joy of soaring flight. Additionally this newsletter and our website, which is currently undergoing a makeover, have increased awareness of Freedom's Wings among members, participants and service providers throughout the region.
So what lies ahead for Freedom's Wings International? First and foremost we need a few good men and women as volunteers who are committed to our mission. Anyone interested in becoming a member of our dynamic club should contact me via email.
Fundraising is a continual challenge especially over the last three years which have been difficult financially for many foundations and individuals. We must raise the money we need each year to fund our operating expenses but also institute a capital campaign in order to replace our 30-year-old gliders.
How will Freedom's Wings foster growth in soaring for persons with disabilities? Certainly not by forming satellite Freedom's Wings clubs throughout the country. To do so would be costly and time consuming. Soaring for persons with disabilities will expand when soaring clubs and the Soaring Society of America (SSA) recognize that persons with disabilities make good pilots and club members; and commit to making their programs accessible.
I propose the Soaring Society of America (SSA) fund a "How To" project with Freedom's Wings International to produce a manual with a DVD which can be used by glider clubs to establish their own program. This resource manual will cover subjects from how to adapt a glider to purchasing a new glider with hand controls; from medical issues to training considerations. An online format is recommended so that information can be easily accessed and updated. Clubs interested in beginning a program can download the manual and incorporate relevant information into their own operating and training procedures. This resource manual is the single most important task to promote soaring for persons with disabilities on a national level.