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How Deaf Pilots Learn To Fly

by John M. White |

Back on January 2nd of this year I wrote a story about a deaf pilot who got his instrument rating. While the story told how the pilot first heard airplanes taking off, it didn't really go into how this man was able to get an instrument rating. It occurred to me, however, that with technologies available today it might not be too difficult. After all, with LCD is the cockpits and our ability to text anyone anywhere in the world, getting instructions to an instrument rated pilot in that matter would probably not be too difficult to do. Much more difficult I suppose would be how do you instruct a pilot who can not hear?
I decided it was time to do a little bit more research, and in so doing discovered that this trip to an instrument rating took quite some time, and had a lot of obstacles to overcome. As it turns out on August 3, 2004 Stephen Hopson received a letter from the FAA in Washington by email giving him the green light to pursue his dreams of earning an instrument rating! By September of 2004 thanks to the email from the FAA, he began instrument training with a number of different instructors at different flight schools. His flight instructors not only have to teach him how to fly solely by reference to the instruments, but also had to assist with the radios. The instructor and student communicated by passing notes back and forth while Hopson was flying under the hood (we all know how much fun that is!). In October 2005, American Winds Flight Academy in Akron, OH offered to sponsor his instrument flight training. Once again, Stephen packed all his belongings and moved to Akron, OH to continue and complete his instrument flight training. On February 24th 2006 it finally happened! Aviation history was made when Hopson passed his check ride and the FAA issued Hopson his instrument rating. There is one caveat, however, his instrument rating requires that he flies with a qualified copilot to handle the radios for him. A little more research and I discover that there is a Deaf Pilot's Association, complete with an annual fly-in too boot! Here is a video about the event: One of the things I love about aviation is that pilots never let anything stand in their way when it comes to flying. Whether flying a sport aircraft or the Boeing 787, the one thing all pilots share is that love of flying. I have been privileged to know a lot of pilots over the years, and many of them went on to make the airlines their career. But not matter how big the airplane or how far they fly, they are always ready to climb back into a general aviation airplane and go flying! What a great field to be involved with! Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 Instrument flying is an unnatural act probably punishable by God. — Gordon Baxte

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