Able Flight

Aerospace Center for Excellence Launches Partnership with Able Flight

For Immediate Release
March 6, 2019

Lakeland, Florida: The Aerospace Center for Excellence, the educational component of SUN ‘n FUN Fly-In Inc., is excited to announce its partnership with Able Flight, a unique organization that shares a similar belief that learning to fly is a life changing experience.  This partnership will enable those with disabilities an opportunity to earn their private pilot’s license in a customized aircraft that meets their physical needs, housing during their training, and instruction from volunteer certified instructors.

The Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) is renowned for youth-based educational programs, including a mentoring and scholarship program that has created 91 teenage private pilots.  According to Ed Young, Executive Director of ACE, the partnership with Able Flight is synergistic. “Our mission at ACE is to engage, educate and accelerate the next generation of aerospace professionals. 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.”

The partnership is also being supported by Zenith Aircraft Co., a designer and manufacturer of aircraft kits. Recently, an Able Flight award winner built a specially designed Zenith 750, with the support of his community. Rick Garcia, President of Gulf Coast Avionics and ACE Board Member, said that “our community in Lakeland has a chance to not only support this noble effort, but to literally come together and build a training airplane that could serve hundreds or thousands of disabled people in the future.”

“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 said. “We are planning to name the aircraft the “Spirit of Lakeland”. This project imbues the nature of the aviation community at the Lakeland Linder International Airport.”

Charles Stites, Executive Director of Able Flight, extolled the partnership’s potential to expand their program. “Our new training partnership with ACE provides an outstanding opportunity to build upon our successful relationships with Purdue University and The Ohio State University. Now with three training locations, and the ability to train almost year round in Florida, Able Flight pilots will benefit from the expertise of the dedicated aviation professionals at the Aerospace Center for Excellence who share our mission of creating a pathway for people with physical disabilities to have equal access to flight training and aviation career training.”

“Lakeland is ideally situated close to the Tampa VA rehabilitation center,” notes ACE and SUN ‘n FUN CEO John “Lites” Leenhouts. “We hope the disabled veterans in our area will apply for the Able Flight Scholarship. While anyone with a disability is eligible for the opportunities Able Flight gives, we are keenly aware of the needs of the nearby former and current service members.”

Able Flight Scholarship students will be housed in the Tom Davis Educational Center on the ACE Campus during training and instructed by volunteer certified flight instructors.

For more information, contact Ed Young at or (863)904-6948.

About Aerospace Center for Excellence, Inc.:
The Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE), a 501(c)(3) non-profit, has emerged as a nationally recognized leader in STEM-related and aerospace education through its various learning centers, outreach programs, summer camps and scholarships aimed at preparing students for tomorrow’s aerospace challenges. Located on the SUN ‘n FUN Expo Campus in Lakeland, Florida, the organization is known for its annual SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-In and Expo fundraising event as well as the Aerospace Discovery Museum which is Florida’s Official Aviation Museum and Education Center. ACE is the world’s leader in producing licensed teenage private pilots and delivers youth programs that engage over 40,000 students a year.  For more information,

About Able Flight, Inc.:
Able Flight’s mission is to offer 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 was created by pilots who believe that the life-changing experience of learning to fly is best shared, and designed the Able Flight Scholarships to enable people with disabilities to pursue that experience. Members of the Able Flight Board of Directors and Advisory Board include a flight instructor, an Aviation Medical Examiner, a veteran who flies his own plane with the aid of a prosthetic device, and a previous scholarship recipient. Able Flight™ is incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, and is supported by the generous donations and sponsorships of individuals, foundations and corporations.


Carol Cali
Director of Marketing

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