Pilot Profile: LGBTQ+ Edition!

June is Pride month, so we wanted to feature one of our volunteer LGBTQ+ pilots who allows ATC to continue bringing joy and hope to so many kids. Meet Matt! Thank you for all that you do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. How did you hear about ATC?

  A few years back Mike and Tara D’Alessandro, who I’ve known since Cape Airlines circa 2005 reached out to me about Above the Clouds. I came to a Dream Flight Day and instantly was hooked. I really enjoyed the mission and the atmosphere instantly.

2. What do you love about flying?

  I would have to say I like the freedom that comes with the profession. One mile of road can take you one mile in a car. One mile of pavement can take you anywhere that airplane can get to. For someone like myself who grew up very very modestly it’s been a privilege seeing the world on my airline (American Airlines group). The rush of taking off and being in command of a flying machine whether it be a piper warrior or a Boeing 767 that can take you anywhere on Earth is something that’s hard to describe. It’s unlike anything else.

3. How long have you been a pilot?

  I have been a pilot since the fall of 2003 when I enrolled in the Bridgewater State College aviation program.

4. What made you want to become a pilot?

  I have known and had the itch for aviation since I was about 4 years old. I was always walking around looking at the sky. For many of my fellow aviators their stories are similar.

5. As an LGBTQ+ pilot do you feel a sense of responsibility to impact your community?

  I am a member of the NGPA (National Gay Pilots Association). I was very young during all the strife in the 80s and 90s for gay rights. (Born in 1985). This organization paved the way for helping LGBTQ+ pilots as a support system. Today it has grown to about 3000 members. Every year during Boston pride I run a float with an american eagle blow up airplane towed by my truck. Myself and other members of the NGPA as well as many of my straight friends march in Boston’s pride parade. It is important to me to convey that no matter who you love or want to marry that you can achieve your life long goals with hard work and dedication. This is how I personally connect with the community and show them they can be anything.

6. Is there another LGBTQ pilot you idolize?

  When I first joined the NGPA one of the first people I met was Captain Jan Anderson. She is currently a Captain on the Boeing 777 at American Airlines. She was very kind and welcoming and put me at ease.

  Right now I currently teach our new pilots how to fly the Embraer 145 jet on the Piedmont side of the American operation. For many, this is their first job as an airline pilot. To build professionalism I tell the captain candidates (prior experience who are about to be pilot in command of the aircraft after their training) to tell me what they think it takes to be a captain? What qualities do they possess and what should you try to emulate? You want someone who is calm, thorough and knowledgeable. Someone who is a leader but also approachable. Someone who can handle all the threats we face everyday while keeping our customers, crew and the aircraft safe during flight. Someone like Sully…or an old school Pan Am captain or better yet someone like Jan. These people do not crack under pressure. After knowing her the last few years, I can tell by her demeanor she encompasses all the things I mentioned above. I haven’t flown with her yet but once this economic slowdown is over that is one of my goals. I look up to Jan for many reasons and these are just a few of them. She has served as Vice President of the NGPA and set a great example for all of us to follow.

  7. What would you say to a young person who wants to become a pilot?

  I would first congratulate them on their desire to join such a unique community. Explain to them that it is a long road but the juice is worth the squeeze. The ability to fly is something sacred and special to aviators. It’s a tight knit community and everyone is welcome to join if they have the passion. The world is at their fingertips

8. How do you think ATC is changing lives?

  All you have to do is go by the faces of these kids after they’ve gone flying. Some come for one day. Others decide to pursue flying lessons afterward with our guidance. Many of these kids have never seen an airplane up close. It is amazing to just for one day be able to remove these kids from their difficult situation and make them feel loved, appreciated and free.

  It also helps the volunteers. My brothers and I had a challenging upbringing in some ways and I had some of the best role models who weren’t in my immediate family to help me. David Willey, my mentor, my grandma, my god mother, and my uncle. These people went above and beyond for me and my brothers. Above the Clouds gives me a chance to pay it forward. If we can change the trajectory of just one child’s negative path it’s a success. To serve this organization has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

9. Describe ATC in one word

  Uplifting

Mother’s Day Joy and Hope

Since Mother’s Day is celebrated this month, we wanted to feature the Dream Flight Day experience of one of the mother’s of a past Dream Flyer. Elyse accompanied her daughter, Samantha, last June for her Dream Flight Day. This was Elyse’s experience.

 

  1. Describe your Dream Flight Day experience with your child

 

Our Dream Flight Day was incredible, from the preplanning to the arrival to the preflight planning to the actual flight to the after snack and gift giving! Before we came, the Coordinator told us to call 5 minutes out so that they could be sure to be waiting outside for us. When we arrived, there were 3 people there to greet us with great big signs for Samantha. That made Samantha feel that she was a Superstar for the Day. Our Pilot Bill and our Flight Attendant Josh were incredibly patient and kind. Samantha flew to Scituate then over to Foxboro for a bird’s eye view of Gillette Stadium. She loved taking the wheel for about 8 minutes or so. We got some amazing photos both on the tarmac and in the air.

 

2. What is something you would say to another mother who hasn’t been to a Dream Flight Day yet with their child?

 

I would tell any mother that this is a once-in a-lifetime experience for their child that they really should take advantage of. It gives the child a feeling of being special and doing something most other kids their age have never done. It is a thrill and a half. As parents, we were so proud of the way our daughter handled herself. The pilot was very patient and took her lead in terms of how fast to instruct and to fly.

 

3. What does being a mother mean to you?

 

Being a mother means giving my child as much exposure as I possibly can to the real world, even with her neurodiverse mind. Since I have enrolled her in so many different offerings over the years, she has made great progress and I believe that all children with special needs can be challenged to meet their full potential, whatever that is for that individual. As her mother, I have been so pleasantly surprised to see all that she actually can do, when I give her the opportunity to do so. My goal is to provide whatever I can in order to help her become her best possible self.

 

4. How do you think ATC is bringing joy and hope to kids?

 

I think ATC brings joy and hope by affording these kids the awesome experience that is their own personal Dream Flight. I have heard of many other families being so grateful to the organization. The program is most hopeful and brings much joy to many people along the way.

 

5. Describe ATC in one word

 

I would describe ATC as “A Thrilling Chance” or just “Dreamy”

 

 

Elyse with her family during a beautiful Dream Flight Day last June.

In the Air

Above the Clouds invites you to celebrate National Poetry month! As we await clearance to take to the skies, lets get creative in using poetry to share ATC’s special brand of joy and hope! Throughout the month of April, we welcome your stories, poems, and messages of hope in text, art, video, music, and, of course, rap. Below is one of our favorite poems titled “In the Air” from an ATC Dream Flyer. Nick flew with us in 2013 and is currently a computer science major at Westfield State.

 

“In the air, I am free. In the air, there is much more to see.
On the ground, I am bound. As I look up, people look down.
Dream Flight. Is it the dream of flight, or the flight of a dream?
From where I sat, the sky appeared gray and foreboding.
Perhaps my freedom should be postponed for another day?
The sky, like life, is not always what is seems;
We pushed on through the clouds and greeted the sun’s shining beams.
Mind racing, hands trembling, I traded wheels for wings.
Bumping, jerking, vibrating disappeared with the gentle pressure of
overcoming Earth’s gravity.
The racing of the engine echoed the racing of my heart, both straining to escape
their confines.
The barriers, the challenges, the ridicule, the pain melted away as the journey
began.
All the stairs, all the difficulty, it would disappear.
The controls in hand, I became the master of my movements, the ruler of my
rambling. Apprehension turned to delight, and then to serenity as we sliced
through clouds and pierced sunbeams.
In the air, I can see the world
On the ground, I can only see my town.
In the air, I can go anywhere.
On the ground, I can’t go there.
In the air, there’s not a care.
On the ground, there’s no one around.
In the air, I am free.
In the air, I am ME”

—Nicholas Coleman

Women of Aviation Worldwide Week!

Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week is a global aviation awareness week for girls of all ages observed to mark the anniversary of the world’s first female pilot license (March 8, 1910). The week is a call to address gender imbalance in the air and space industry. Therefore, in honor of this, we wanted to highlight a female pilot who year after year does so much to support Above the Clouds. Thank you for all that you do and for being an inspiration to so many young females.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. How did you hear about ATC?

Heard about ATC when the Ninety-Nines Women Pilots had a meeting at Norwood Airport on the same day as ATC. All 15 of us women pilots met ATC folk. Great way to meet!

 

2. What do you love about flying?

Seeing the world from a beautiful perspective; sense of adventure, freedom and accomplishment – always learning.

 

3. How long have you been a pilot?

20 years

 

4. What made you want to become a pilot?

Seeking a new view on the world when my daughters went off to college, I took an introductory flight and I was hooked. I soon joined my love of photography with my passion for flight and became an aerial photographer.

 

5. What impact do you think being a female pilot in a male dominated field has?

It’s making a difference as more women rise in the ranks, the old stereotype (she’s a women, can’t fly etc) is fading and being replaced with respect and cooperation.

 

6. Is there a female pilot who you have always idolized?

Amelia Earhart – Founder of the Ninety-Nines and many 99s who are alive today!

 

7. How do you think ATC is changing lives?

Offering flights to kids who are challenged on so many levels, making a day especially for them, learning about flying, taking the controls of a plane – this opportunity can open eyes & raise spirits. They too could do something they never thought possible.  This can have a huge influence on young lives. Going home with this experience of flight and the gifts from ATC will forever be a reminder of what’s possible.

 

8. Is there something I haven’t asked you that you would like to add?

Please visit my website www.margotcheel.com for my bio and more info on my books and photos.

 

9. Describe ATC in one word.

Hope.

Pilot Profile: Dale Aliberti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Where are you from?

          I was born and raised in Connecticut. However, I have also lived in Nevada and now Massachusetts.

  1. How did you hear about ATC?

          I learned about Above the Clouds through a mutual friend. I was on a trip in Florida and began discussing where I was from, my work and other interests. After bringing up my passion for volunteerism, my friend mentioned the wonderful work that was being done right in my own back yard. I emailed Martha and Gary the next day to see how I could become involved.

  1. What is something most people don’t know about you?

         Before realizing that a career as a  pilot was an achievable goal, I wanted to be a sports broadcaster for ESPN. To this day I am a passionate sports fan and enjoy playing golf and skiing.

  1. What do you love about flying?

        Flying offers a sensation of freedom that you can’t get anywhere else. No matter how many times I take off, the ability to look out the window and see the world move by from above brings me absolute joy.

  1. How long have you been a pilot?

        I began taking flying lessons in 2012 as a freshman in college. I have been flying professionally since 2014 and am excited for the long career ahead. (Only 40 short years until retirement)

  1. What made you want to become a pilot?

        I have always loved airplanes, trucks, trains, really anything with a loud engine that moved. In high school, while researching career options, I came to the realization that this love really hadn’t faded. Embarrassing at the time? Yes. However I soon realized that I was only a few short years away from turning this passion into a career. I have been enjoying the ride ever since.

  1. How do you think ATC is changing lives?

       With so much negativity in the world today, it is refreshing to see how a small group of people can come together to create so much joy. I could never have anticipated the amount of love that ATC and its volunteers provide to those in need. I have seen first hand how a smile and simple conversation can turn a child’s day into one that he or she will never forget.

  1. Is there something I haven’t asked you that you would like to say about ATC?

       I am passionate about aviation and helping others. However, I truly did not understand the impact that the work ATC would have on the children. ATC is made up of an incredible group of leaders, mentors and volunteers and I am excited to be a part of it.

  1. Describe ATC in one word

       Joy

Dream Flyer Spotlight: Lilly

1. Where are you from?
Sun Prairie, WI

2. What is something most people don’t know about you?  
I play wrestling and flute.

3. Can you describe some of your medical challenges?
Asthma and Eczema.

4. What is your favorite place that you flew during your dream flight?
Over the rivers where we saw things that had sunk.

5. Did you enjoy spending time with your pilot? Was there anything memorable about your time together?
I enjoyed taking pictures with my pilot at the end when I received my personalized flight jacket. 

6. What did you love about your Dream Flight?
I loved the view from the airplane and playing with Joy, the therapy dog .

7. How would you say ATC is changing lives?
My Dream Flight Day experience has made me want to be a pilot and have more fun in my life.

8. Talk me through your Dream Flight day experience with your pilot
Fun, exciting and most fun thing I’ve ever had with my dad. It’s something I would want to do again and again if I could.
9. What would you say to someone who hasn’t had a Dream Flight Day experience yet?   
Go fly a Dream Flight now!
10. Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share about ATC?
Dream Flights help take away the stress from school and any other bad things that are happening in life around you.
11. Describe ATC in one word.
Exhilarating!

Volunteer Spotlight- Josh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Where are you from?

Canton, MA

 

2. What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Sports is my second passion besides aviation.

 

3. What do you love about volunteering?

I love seeing the smiles on the dream flyers face when they step off the aircraft , it’s truly priceless. It feels good to make a difference in a kid’s life who is going thru a rough time.

 

4. How did you hear about ATC?

I heard about ATC through my town paper The Canton Citizen.

 

5. What made you want to become a volunteer for ATC?

When I was a student at Canton High School , we were required to complete 80 hours of community service. I was searching and searching for something aviation related for community service and couldn’t find anything . Then I saw the ATC article in my town paper. I went on the ATC website and watched the 10 minute video that gives a summary of ATC and was blown away. I then emailed Martha, went in to meet her and then was invited to my first Dream Flight Day.

 

6. How long have you been involved with ATC?

4 years.

 

7. What is your most memorable experience with ATC?

My most memorable experience with Above The Clouds was actually recently when I was flight coordinator for a kid named Binh. Binh was very energetic from the moment I met him. He was an aviation enthusiast and reminded me of myself when I was younger. I was talking to Binh’s Dad and Binh had the chance to sit in the cockpit of the A380 (the world’s largest jet) and talk to the pilots, something I always dreamt of having the opportunity to do. Binh also sits at home watching videos of airplanes on YouTube just like I did when I was little. When Binh got off the plane after his dream flight he was so happy . I think that day inspired him and made his love and passion for aviation even more deep and I’m glad I was able to take part and deepen that passion for aviation for Binh.

 

8. How do you think ATC is changing lives?

I think Above The Clouds is changing so many kids lives through the power of aviation. Above The Clouds is able to provide joy for kids who have been through so much and to just get their mind off of what’s going on in their life outside Norwood airport for a couple hours is awesome . Beyond that , Above The Clouds inspires some kids like, “Wow I just flew a plane, if I can do that I can do anything!” The “I can do anything I put mind to” attitude is something that I think we need more of in this world and I think Above The Clouds is helping instill this into kids minds.

 

9. Is there something I haven’t ask you that you would like to say about ATC?

Above The Clouds is going places , this organization is truly something special.

 

10. Describe ATC in one word.

Inspirational.

 

Aviation Inspiration- Big Sister June

As Above the Clouds hosts its annual Big Sister / Little Sister Dream Flight Day this month, we salute and honor the life of Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb, a pioneer in aviation. Jerrie recently died at age 88 at her Florida home after a lifetime of aviation achievement; advocacy for women pilots in the space program; and after devoting 50 years to using her aviation skills for humanitarian missions.

Jerrie began her flying lessons at age 12, earned her private pilot certificate at age 16, and her commercial pilot license at 18.  At 21, while working in a clerical job at Miami International Airport, Jerrie applied for a pilot’s job to deliver surplus military planes around the world.  After initially being dismissed as a “girl wanna be pilot”, Jerrie opened her log book documenting more than 3,000 hours of flying time.  The next day she began flying World War II aircraft overseas.

Jerrie was the first woman to fly in the Paris Air Show, one of the first female aviation executives, and eventually earned the Amelia Earhart Gold Medal of Achievement, the Amelia Earhart Memorial Award and Woman of the Year in Aviation.  At age 28 Jerrie was the first woman to enter NASA’s astronaut testing program and was on track to be one of the United States’ first astronauts as a member of “The Mercury 13” female aviators group.  In spite of the Mercury 13’s intensive training, testing, and otherwise qualifying, in 1962 a Congressional Subcommittee voted to exclude women, based on gender, from participating as astronauts.

Not to be deterred from flying, Jerrie devoted the next several decades to flying in humanitarian missions, delivering lifesaving supplies and assistance to indigenous tribes in the Amazon.  And throughout her life, Jerrie continued to advocate for women’s equality in aviation.  In 1999 she, along with several of the original “Mercury 13”, sat in VIP seats at the launch of Eileen Collins, NASA’s first female shuttle commander, 37 years after the Congressional Committee had denied trained and qualified women the right to serve as astronauts.

Jerrie has been honored by several South American countries for her humanitarian work; has received the the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award for “Humanitarian Contributions to Modern Aviation”; is enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame; and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981.  Jerrie wrote two books about her life: Woman Into Spacewith Jane Rieker, and Jerrie Cobb, Solo Pilot.

As we fly Above the Clouds, let us honor Jerrie Cobb as a trailblazer who inspired generations of men and women throughout the aviation and philanthropic communities, and helped chart the course for female aviators.

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At Above the Clouds we believe in the positive transformative impact of aviation, and through our programs we inspire joy and hope in children and teens to help them reach for the stars in their own lives.  Along with our Dream Flyers Program, Above the Clouds offers two extended programs designed to nurture a sense of hope and possibility for a bright future in teens.

The Discovery Flyers Program is a one-to-one mentoring program that introduces teenagers to aviation and enables them to develop a lasting friendship with a caring, volunteer Discovery Pilot. Discovery Flyers have the opportunity to fly in the co-pilot’s seat with their mentor on a monthly basis. The Flyers learn about aviation, and they experience the self-esteem that results from a supportive relationship with a trusted, committed adult. The Discovery Flyers Program has served 25 youth since its establishment in 2015 and will serve 15 teens this year.

The Cadet Flyers Program gives a small number of teens the amazing opportunity to take flying lessons at no cost, and eventually to pilot an airplane by themselves – solo flying! This program, which has served ten teenagers thus far, gives low-income, at-risk youth a life-changing opportunity they never could have imagined for themselves, and it motivates them to focus, stay in school, and follow a path toward a better future. One of our Cadet Flyers was recently accepted into Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, as well as the Aviation Science Program at Bridgewater State University.  Another of our Cadet Flyers has completed his commercial rating and will be graduating soon from St. Louis University.

Flying in the copilot seat and seeing the world from a new perspective helps Above the Clouds’ kids see that the world is wide with possibility.  As flying first ignited a passion in Jerrie Cobb 75 years ago, our Discovery Flyers and Cadet Flyers Programs work to infuse each teen with the skills and confidence to chart his or her own course for a positive future.

Many thanks to our volunteer squadron of pilots, volunteers, and donors for all you do to help Above the Clouds continue to bring joy and hope through the wonder of flight.

Learn more about the Discovery Flyers Program here: https://abovethecloudskids.org/discovery-flyers/

Learn more about the Cadet Flyers Program here: https://abovethecloudskids.org/about-cadet-flyers/

 

Saluting our Volunteers

On April 6th, Above the Clouds kicked off the April 7-13 Points of Light National Volunteer Week a day early with its first 2019 Dream Flight Day. Over 60 volunteers donated more than 100 hours as artists, pilots, photographers, videographers, flight coordinators, go-pro managers, radio flight monitors, board members, fund raisers, committee members, name tag and supply organizers and welcome teams to insure a memorable Dream Flight experience for 13 children.

 

Ten airplane owners donated the use of their aircraft. Pilots drove and flew into Norwood from as far away as York, Maine, to donate their aircraft, expertise and time. Piedmont Airlines donated swag bags for each Flyer. Westwood High School students created personalize posters for each Dream Flight child. Roche Brothers Supermarkets and Panera Bread contributed food to feed children, their families and the dozens of people involved with making the Dream Flight experience truly magical.

 

Independent Sector recently quantified the estimated value of a volunteer hour in Massachusetts to be $32.15. The volunteer cadre at Above the Clouds respectfully suggests that the joy and hope of Dream Flights and other ATC programs cannot be drilled down into such a metric.

 

Instead, we prefer the broader view articulated below:

 

“Volunteerism has been a driving force in the strength and power of our civil society since this country’s founding,” said Independent Sector president and CEO Dan Cardinali. “We know that giving of our time, talent, and effort transforms organizations, communities, and our nation, and also has profound effects on the individuals giving their time. The Value of Volunteer Time gives us just one concrete measure to illustrate the power of individuals to transform communities.”

 

“We believe the most powerful force of change in our world is the individual- one who takes action and makes a positive difference,” said Points of Light president and CEO Natalye Paquin. “This data shows the value that volunteers bring to the sector and the world. When people use their talents and skills to take action and support causes they care about, we can build a stronger, more equitable world.”

 

Above the Clouds deeply appreciates the 100+ volunteers who are the light, lifeblood and joy makers of our programs. Thank you for giving of your time, talent and treasure. Your contributions are incalculable.

 

SOURCE: Independent Sector Releases New Value of Volunteer Time of $25.43 Per Hour. Independent Sector Press Release 04/11/2019.

Pilot Profile: Susan Schwaab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Where are you from?

      I am from Wisconsin and most of my family is here. I have lived in several other states however following career opportunities

2. How did you hear about ATC?

      I heard about ATC from googling on the internet! I believe I googled “flying kids from disadvantaged backgrounds” and ATC was the only thing that came up! I have been following ATC ever since.

3. What is something most people don’t know about you?

     I was going to business school after college, but instead decided to enlist in the Marine Reserve. No regrets. My initial aspiration in aviation was to be a flight attendant. In elementary school, that was my “what I want to be when I grow up” goal

4. What do you love about flying?

    I love the beauty, joy and freedom of flying as well as the feeling of being totally immersed and present in the moment when I’m in an airplane.

5. How long have you been a pilot?

   I have been flying since 1979. The joys of getting old!

6. What made you want to become a pilot?

   I was introduced to flying by a friend/boyfriend who was flying charter in the Madison area. He took me flying several times and I completely fell in love with it. When I told him that I was thinking of flying as a career, he told me “girls can’t be pilots”. Well, that settled it.

7. What are you most excited about by bringing ATC to Madison, WI?

   Bringing ATC to Madison is so exciting to me because it is such a beautiful way to bring community together around children to introduce them to new possibilities.

8. How do you think ATC is changing lives?

  I am very much looking forward to seeing how ATC changes lives! I am sure that the joy and perspective flying brings will make lifelong memories. I also love how ATC celebrates each individual child, some of whom may have never had that experience.

9. Is there something I haven’t asked you that you would like to say about ATC?

  I am so pleased to be part of such a unique program that fills such a need for lifting up children while bringing communities together.

10. Describe ATC in one word

   Hope.