Pilot Profile: Jon Payson









1. Where are you from?

      Manchester, MA

2. How did you hear about ATC?

      I was contacted by a pilot friend and former colleague who introduced me to Gary

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.

4. How long have you been a pilot?

    I learned to fly more than 40 years ago.

5. What made you want to become a pilot?

    I was 15 and my (first) girlfriend was taking flying lessons – her dad (also her instructor) took me up for an hour in a super-cub. The romance didn’t last but the flying bug certainly did.

6. Where is your favorite place to fly?

   I am a regular at KPSM, formerly Pease AFB. They have a very forgiving 12,000-foot runway, full-featured instrument approaches, and very accommodating controllers.

8. Do you do Dream Flights? Discovery Flights? Cadet Flights?

   With ATC, I have only done Discovery Flights.

9. What do you love most about being a Discovery Pilot?

   I love flying and sharing the experience with young people, and it has given me a terrific opportunity to get to know a terrific young woman whom I never would have met otherwise.

10. Describe a typical Discovery Fly Day with your Discovery Flyer, Estebanya.

  We’ve done a lot of different things, from checking out the whales off Providence to flying down the Charles River through Boston to touring Mount Washington from the air. Each trip we add a little more aviation – flying the plane, talking to the tower, basic navigation…

11. How do you think ATC is changing lives?

  Our understanding of the world is very much a result of our experiences and interaction with others, and ATC marries some really differentiated experience with improbable connections between pilot and Flyer – consequently, our young Flyers discover new perspectives of their potential future lives.

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

  The generosity of so many pilots, volunteers, donors, and sponsors is inspiring.

13. Describe ATC in one word



To learn more about the Discovery Flyer Program click here: https://abovethecloudskids.org/discovery-flyers/

Cadet Flyer Spotlight: Corwin








  1. Where are you from?

          I am from Quincy, Massachusetts


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

         Most of my friends do not know I have been helping my parent’s chinese take out restaurant at the early age of 10. My early childhood was mostly working and taking orders versus hanging out with school friends.


3. What is your favorite place that you have flown?

         Nantucket (KAC). It was the last flight I flew with my instructor, Matt Hurley, who got me interested in Saint Louis University where I currently train now to become a commercial pilot. We knew it was going to one of our last flights together which made it really special to me.


4. How long did you fly with ATC?

         I flew with Above the Clouds for 2 years.


5. How did you find out about ATC?

         I learned about Above the Clouds in 2014 when they reached out to me through their partnerships with Crossroads for Kids. I scheduled a date to head out to Norwood, MA and fell in love with the organization since.


6. What do you love about flying?

         I enjoy the independence the comes with flying. It is up to my own skills and knowledge to fly the plane safely. When I fly with an instructor, it is up to me, as the PIC, to figure out how to execute the maneuver properly. When I do solo cross countries by myself, the silence of radio chatter and the engine rumbling beneath my headset are very calming.


7. Do you remember your first flight? How was it?

        My first flight was an overwhelming experience of new lessons and knowledge. I did not think I could learn all the material that was being presented and not to mention the handling the flight controls for the first time. It was very difficult to maintain altitude and a heading because I did not know the effects of pitch and over controlling. In summary, it was a very bumpy first flight.


8. What is your most memorable ATC experience?

        My most memorable ATC experience had to be my solo flight on August 17, 2015. I became very nervous when my instructor hopped out of N8222D and told me to go solo. It was very unexpected but I knew that my training prepared me for that moment. I taxied out, took off, and did my 3 laps around the pattern. At the very end of it all, my instructor came onto the radio and congratulated me for achieving this milestone in aviation.


9. How has ATC changed your life?

       The organization has given me hope and inspiration to become a part of the next generation of pilots. No one in my family has any background in the industry so I would otherwise have no connections in aviation without ATC.


10. Talk me through a typical flight day with your pilot

       My flight block at Saint Louis University starts at 9:30 am. I typically wake up and get ready around 7 am to check the weather to see if I am flying and go over any lesson material I might need. I take the shuttle from campus at 9 am sharp and get to the airport at 9:20. I brief with my instructor about the lesson for the day and express any comments or questions I might have about a particular maneuver or procedure. My instructor will then authorize me to get the keys and I head out preflight one of our Diamond DA20 C1 eclipse trainer aircrafts. After the preflight in done and the airplane is untied, my instructor will hop into the plane and I will start the checklist and procedures to start the plane and taxi out to the runway. Once we are cleared to take off it’s all business from there. We execute every line item on the day’s lesson in 1.4 hobb time window. At the end of it all, I am exhausted and my back hurts. We ramp in, debrief about the things I did well and could improve upon next time, close out the lesson, and I am headed back on campus to attend my next lecture.


11. What is something you would tell someone that wants to become a Cadet Flyer?

      Do it. Whether you find out that you love aviation or not, it is one of the best experiences I ever had. The connections and resources that the organization has are very critical to the industry and could lead to a fulfilling career. Even if you do not become a pilot, there are many opportunities in the industry that ATC can help get connected with. But if your aspirations are to be a pilot, then ATC is the right place to be.


12. Describe ATC in one word

      Caring. They care about those who have had some affiliation with the organization, old and new. They welcome anyone with open arms and a passion for their mission.

Volunteer Spotlight: Laura Curran











1. Where are you from?

    I grew up in Hyde Park, but have lived in Norwood for the past 10 years.

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

    My first flight was in a helicopter over Niagara Falls when I was 11.

3. What do you love about volunteering?

    The impact it has on the kids.

4. How did you hear about ATC?

    Via another volunteer organization

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

    It was very clear that ATC has something very special and different to offer children and their families.

6. How long have you been involved with ATC?

    Finishing my 3rd year.

7. Do you remember your first time volunteering for ATC? How was it?

    I was amazed at the energy and excitement of all the volunteers and the positive effect it had on the kids.

8. What is your most memorable experience with ATC?

    It was one of the Big Sister days and the Big Sister wrote to Martha thanking her for the great day and how she had not seen her ‘Little’ smile like she did that day.  Also, that the ‘Little’ was amazed that we were there for her and doing this for her – saying she never felt special until that day’.  That still makes me tear up.

9. How do you think ATC is changing lives?

    It empowers the kids to think beyond barriers.

10. Talk me through a typical Dream Flight Day you have with these kids.

    As a flight coordinator, my job is to see the child and his/her family upon arrival at Norwood Memorial Airport through to  their departure.  Beginning with the ground crew greeting; to meeting their pilot and planning their flight; to escorting them to the plane and watching them taxi; greet them upon their return and presenting their personalized flight jacket and of course, more photo ops!  They have their own personalized paparazzi to capture their time at ATC.

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

    ATC is about the whole family.  Clearly, the Dream Flyer is the focal person.  However, the entire family/chaperone is made part of the day.  I especially like to see that the siblings are treated ‘special’ too.  A lot of times, when there is a child with special needs, care, etc.. the other children are ‘in the background’.  On DFDs, everyone is involved.

12. Describe ATC is one word.


Dream Flyer Spotlight: Dylan









  1. Where are you from?

             Middleboro, MA

2. Can you describe some of your medical challenges?

            I have cancer and I am visually impaired.

3. What was your favorite place that you flew during your Dream Flight Day?

           Over Gillette Stadium

4. Did you enjoy spending time with your pilot? Was there anything memorable about your time together?

          Yes, my pilot was very nice and the entire day was unforgettable.

5. What did you love most about your Dream Flight?

         Helping my pilot to fly the plane.

6. How would you say that ATC is affecting lives?

        They are giving people a day to forget about their medical challenges and enjoy a day that they will always remember.

7. Talk me through your Dream Flight Day experience

        First we checked the plane before takeoff. Then we flew over Gillette Stadium and Sauchuk Farm. It was really beautiful because the leaves were so colorful. After we got back to the airport we went inside to chat and take some pictures together. My pilot Chris gave me a map of our entire flight, a real bomber jacket with my name on it and a pair of aviator sunglasses!

8. What would you say to someone who hasn’t had a Dream Flight Day experience yet?

       You are going to love every minute of your flight. It was one of my most memorable experiences of my life.

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

       Thank you so much to all the volunteers who were there to greet me when I arrived with signs and balloons. It was a wonderful welcome.

10. Describe ATC is one word
















Dream Flyer Spotlight: Brianna









  1. Where are you from?


2. Can you describe some of your medical challenges?

          My biggest medical challenge would be my congenital heart disease, dilated cardiomyopathy. I no longer have it after receiving a heart transplant, but I have had other medical emergencies and conditions since then. The biggest side effect I’ve gotten from having a weakened immune system to protect my heart is post transplant lymphoma. I’ve also had three other emergency surgeries since then including a surgery to remove part of a tumor from my tonsil, and appendectomy, and a bowel resection.

3. What is your favorite place you flew during your Dream Flight?

         Over the Ocean.

4. Did you enjoy spending time with your pilot? Was there anything most memorable about your time together?

        I had a great time with my pilot! There was one point when we were flying over the ocean and we got really close to a ferry. It was so funny watching the people look at us right above them!

5. What did you love about your Dream Flight?

       Everything! I especially liked when we flew over the Dunkin Donuts headquarters and everyone was waving to us from the ground.

6. Talk me through your Dream Flight experience with your pilot

      When I met my pilot I got an awesome jacket with my name on it and a really cool pair of sunglasses. We then decided where we were going and got in the helicopter! First we went to Boston and flew over the hospitals, Fenway, and the ocean. When we left Boston we flew to Taunton where I was able to see my house and my high school. Lastly, we went to the Dunkin Donuts headquarters and then back to the airport.

7. How would you say ATC is changing lives?

      It gives kids some time to just be themselves. Being up in the helicopter lets you enjoy yourself and focus on one thing, flying!

8. What would you say to someone who hasn’t had a Dream Flight experience yet?

     It’s totally awesome and you’re going to love it so much!

9. Describe ATC in one word



Volunteer Spotlight: Garrett MacDonald









  1. Where are you from?

          Lakeville, MA

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

         I have a photographic memory.

  1. What do you love about volunteering?

        I love being able to help give back to the community, as it also helps develop my character, meet new people, help those in need, especially the kids who come along and fly, and it just gives the great feeling that you were able to make a difference.

  1. How did you hear about ATC?

        I heard about ATC during my Senior year at BSU from Greg Bongiorno, the aviation program manager (and dream pilot) at the time for an opportunity to become an Intern during the summer of 2015.

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

       Above the Clouds is a one of a kind non-profit organization that is truly changing lives. After getting the invite to come to a Dream Flight Day in April 2015, I realized that I had made the best decision in my life, and I still continue to volunteer to this day.

  1. How long have you been involved with ATC?

       2 years

  1. Do you remember you’re first time volunteering for ATC? How was it?

       Oh yes!  I remember the first kid I saw fly because he got to fly in a turboprop, which was absolutely amazing.  

  1. What is your most memorable experience with ATC?

       I did get to help a cadet flyer through his pre-solo quiz, and since I also am a pilot myself, I did my best to make sure that it was all accurate and that he understood why the answers were right. That was a fantastic time, and shortly after, I got to see him fly solo, and it was awesome to see.

9. Talk me through a typical DFD you have with these kids?

      I am the radio specialist at ATC, along with being a general purpose volunteer, which means I can do anything that’s asked. My primary responsibility, is to coordinate with the flight coordinators and with the managers on when the dream flyers depart and arrive, which helps everyone get to where they need to be when its needed.  When a dream flight is arriving, I let the coordinators know that their dream flyer is about to land so they all are there to greet them right when they pull in.

10. How do you think ATC is changing lives?

     ATC is absolutely changing lives for everyone involved, including the kids who come along, the pilots who fly them, and the volunteers who support the whole operation.  The kids who are experiencing a very difficult time in their lives get an entire day that is dedicated to them and there were times when I even heard some kids say that it was the first time they really felt special.  For the pilots, they get to get make a difference for someone who is in need. For volunteers like myself and others, it gives us the ability to help those who need it the most. From simply greeting others when they first walk in, to the talented artists who make the signs, the flight coordinators who make a very important impact in the operations, to the pilots who dedicate their time to take the kids for a ride it benefits everyone, and has made a very positive impact on the community.

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

    If anyone who sees this is considering volunteering, I promise that it will be one of the best decisions you ever make in your life. 

12. Describe ATC in one word


Pilot Profile: David Hampson









1. Where are you from?

     Exeter, NH, though I also lived in Cape Town, South Africa for 7 years.

2. How did you hear about ATC?

     Board member Dan Schrager initially introduced me to the organization. Also, both ATC and Gary Oberstein are clients of my aviation insurance agency so I also learned a lot about the organization by working on the ATC insurance program with Gary and Martha.

3. As a new member of the Board of Directors, what will be your role?

     I will be working closely with fellow board members to sustain the momentum and success ATC has experienced, while looking for opportunities for the organization to grow.

4. What are you most excited about now that you are apart of the Board of Directors?

     I’m excited to now have the opportunity to be involved in the strategical, business, and operational aspects of ATC.

5. Since you are also a pilot, where is your favorite place to fly?

     Teterboro, NJ. I’m generally not a big city guy, but I love the view of New York out the window on approach and departure.

6. What do you love about flying?

     The feelings of freedom, excitement, tranquility, and sense of adventure I get at various phases of flight.

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

     I owned and operated a franchise seafood restaurant when I was living in South Africa. I always say that was my business school education—it was a profitable business and great learning experience but not an industry I would want to go into again.

8. How long have you been a pilot?

     About six years.

9. Do you do Dream Flights? Discovery Flights? Cadet Flights?

     I have been flying for ATC since spring of 2016, and have done both Dream Flights and Discovery Flights. Over the past year, I was paired with an amazing young woman in the Discovery Flyer Program, and it was so rewarding to see her progress to the Cadet Program.

10. What made you want to become a pilot?

     I’ve loved everything about airplanes for as long as I can remember. We would fly to Florida to visit family several times per year when I was a very young child and I was always glued to the window on takeoff and landing.

11. How do you think ATC is changing lives?

     ATC exposes children to aviation who otherwise may never have been, but it is much more than that. Particularly in the Discovery Flyers Program, ATC shows kids that there is a bigger world out there full of opportunity, and helps instill in them the confidence to take action to make their dreams a reality.

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

     Yes, we always talk about how much the kids get out of ATC but as a volunteer pilot or member of the ATC support team, you will get so much out of the experience as well. Sometimes, I think ATC may be enriching my life as much or more than it does for the kids.

13. Describe ATC in one word


Unity Through Community Part Two

Earlier this year, in a blog titled “Unity Through Community” a few amazing, local organizations that share our devotion to giving back to the community were highlighted. You can find that article by clicking here. Since that time, Above the Clouds has had the pleasure of working with several other fantastic organizations making a difference that we wanted to let you know about.

House of Possibilities- HOPe was founded upon the belief that children with significant challenges are our heroes and teachers. We believe that they should be afforded unique experiences that their typical peers are able to access, such as opportunities to socialize and enjoy all that the world has to offer. Their hallmark program, Children’s Overnight Respite makes them the premier in-house respite facility in Massachusetts. Additionally, HOPe is unique in that it is the only multi-use respite facility of its kind located on and partnering with a college campus in the United States. From student volunteers to employment opportunities for their adult clients, their partnership with Stonehill College allows for endless possibilities to enrich the lives of our special families. For more information please visit: http://www.houseofpossibilities.org/

Big Sister Boston- Their mission is to ignite girls’ passion and power to succeed through positive mentoring relationships with women and enrichment programs that support girls’ healthy development. Ultimately, their vision is to create a mentor-rich community in which every girl has access to the individual nurturing, guidance, and support she needs to become a confident, competent and caring adult. For more information please visit: http://www.bigsister.org/

Home for Little Wanderers- H.L.W. provides a seamless continuum of vital programs and services for every stage of child and family development. For more than 200 years, they have earned a reputation for doing whatever it takes to strengthen vulnerable families and keep children safe in their own communities, even when they don’t have family support.Serving children and youth from birth to 22, The Home makes a positive impact on over 7,000 lives each year through a network of services including behavioral health, therapeutic residential and special education, adoption and foster care. In addition, a number of innovative programs provide specialized assistance to youth transitioning to adulthood from state systems of care. For more information please visit: http://www.thehome.org/site/PageServer

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have devastated many lives over the past couple of weeks, but there has been a great effort by many groups around the country to give aid to those in need. It is reassuring to know that during these times of struggle our community will come together because we realize that we are all in this together. Organizations like the ones featured above as well as many others really do make a difference and help make the world a better place.

Dream Flyer Spotlight: Mekka









  1. Where are you from?


2. Are you a Dream Flyer? Discovery Flyer? Cadet Flyer?

          I am a Dream Flyer but soon will be a Discovery Flyer.

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

         One thing that most people don’t know about me is that I have a love for photography.

4. Where did you fly during your Dream Flight on June 22nd?

         I flew over Martha’s Vineyard and Gillette Stadium!

5. Did you enjoy spending time with your pilot? Was there anything memorable about your time together?

         I had a wonderful time with my pilot! The most memorable part was when we were about to takeoff because I was so nervous and excited!

6. What did you love most about your Dream Flight?

        My pilot allowed me to help him fly the plane! It was so much fun.

7. Describe your Dream Flight Day Experience

        First we were greeted in the parking lot by all the volunteers. Then Caitlyn and I went upstairs to meet our Dream Flight Pilot where he explained to us what we would be doing inside the plane. After our pre-flight preparation was done we went down to inspect the plane and there were so many people wanting to take my picture. Once we got inside the plane we started communicating with the air traffic control tower and then finally we took off and flew around for about an hour. When we landed I got a hand-decorated poster, a pair of aviator sunglasses and personalized pilot’s jacket with my name on it. 

8. What would you say to someone who has yet to have a Dream Flight Day experience?

       I would say that it is amazing and so much fun.

9. How would you say that Above the Clouds is changing lives?

      Above the Clouds is giving children the opportunity to fly in a plane and even help to fly a plane. I am very grateful for my experience. 

10. Describe Above the Clouds in one word


The Positive Impact of Aviation

In a recent article by AOPA.org titled “Because He flies,” they explored the transformative effects of flying on a young man who recently received his private pilot license. The conclusion? “Flying has prepared him magnificently for life’s inevitable challenges.” Above the Clouds also believes in the positive transformative effects of aviation. We were born out of a desire to provide a long-lasting and meaningful impact on kids who are facing serious adversity. Our three programs provide important relief for kids under tremendous stress and inspire disengaged youth to participate in making their dreams come true. In addition to that, Above the Clouds aims to:

1. Fulfill the need for seriously ill and underserved children to experience joy and to have opportunities to escape the fear, pain, stress and/or tedium that mark most of their lives.

2. Fulfill the need for youth to be afforded the guidance, support and friendship that a positive adult mentor can offer.

3. Fulfill the need for youth to be provided with experiences that instill a love of learning that can offer the motivation needed to work hard at school.

These goals are accomplished through our three programs: Dream Flyers, Discovery Flyers and Cadet Flyers. The Dream Flyers program is an exciting chance for young patients eagerly looking to complete their hospital stay or children who are disabled to fly in the co-pilot’s seat of an airplane. The Discovery Flyers program affords teenagers with the opportunity to fly regularly and build a bond with a Pilot Mentor. The Cadet Flyers Program targets the growing number of young people who are falling through the cracks at school and aims to help them build a bridge to employment opportunities in the aviation field.

This article reaffirmed the important impact and positive, transformative effects of flying. Most of the kids we get to know have never even been in an airplane let alone been given the opportunity to fly one. This seems like it might be something insignificant but flying in the co-pilot seat and literally seeing the world from a new perspective makes them realize that we are all a part of something larger. The article states: “Having watched this one young man’s journey I get the strong feeling that when times get turbulent, he’ll keep the wings level. In adversity, he’ll see things for what they are and coolly consider options. When moments of decision come, he’ll commit without hesitation.” Above the Clouds hopes to foster this kind of impact by continuing to bring joy and hope through the wonder of flight.

Read the full AOPA.org article here:

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