Tis the Season…

Above the Clouds brings joy and hope through the wonder of flight. Our Dream Flyers, Cadet Flyers and Discovery Flyers programs are intended to to help youth through difficult times or even realize a passion for aviation. December is known as the season of giving but it’s always the season of giving at Above the Clouds! Listed below are 3 stories that inspire us and we hope will inspire you to give back this holiday season. Happy Holidays and thank you for continuing to support Above the Clouds.

  1. Inspired by a Family Value of Giving Back, Teen Leads Foundation to Empower At-Risk Girls 
  2. Students Giving Back: Kiril’s Story
  3. Bell Field Teacher has her kids giving back to the community



Unity Through Community- PART 2


Make A Difference Project- Their goal is to make your day a little brighter by being a source of positivity, inspiration, and good news. They accomplish this by sharing the stories of organizations and individuals who are selflessly working to improve the lives of others and make the world a better place. To learn more visit: https://makeadifferenceproject.org/

Smart from the Start- A family support, community engagement and school readiness organization that has as its mission to prevent the academic achievement gap among young children living in the lowest income families and communities. “Smart” empowers parents and caregivers in under-served communities with the tools, resources and support they need to break cycles of chronic school underachievement and generational poverty. To learn more visit: http://smartfromthestartinc.org/

Lucy’s Love Bus- The mission of Lucy’s Love Bus is to improve quality of life for children with cancer and life-threatening illness, to support their families, and to mobilize the next generation of cancer activists. Lucy’s Children Integrative Therapies program offers funding on an individual basis to children with cancer for integrative therapies in their home, at the hospital, or on hospice. To learn more visit: https://lucyslovebus.org/welcome.html

Tufts Floating Hospital for Children- They strive to heal, to comfort, to teach, to learn and to seek the knowledge to promote health and prevent disease. Their patients and their families are at the center of everything they do. They dedicate themselves to furthering their rich tradition of health care, innovation, leadership, charity and the highest standard of care and service to all in their community. At Floating Hospital for Children, their patients are their inspiration. To learn more visit: https://www.floatinghospital.org/

Click this link to read Unity Through Community PART 1: https://abovethecloudskids.org/2017/02/08/unity-through-community/


Cadet Flyers: Pilots of Tomorrow

A recent article in The New York Times (see below) discusses the thousands of pilots who are nearing retirement and the desperate need of major airline carriers to replace them. “I’ve never seen the industry be at this level of pilot demand,” said Kenneth P. Byrnes, the chairman of the flight training department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s campus in Daytona Beach, Fla. About two in five pilots at the five largest domestic carriers will reach mandatory retirement age (65) by 2026. This kind of demand is unprecedented and is making airlines desperate for qualified pilots.

Many of these major airline carriers, including JetBlue and American Airlines have programs that provide training to those interested in a career in aviation. “The program creates a career opportunity for people who might not have thought the industry was an option for them,” said Warren Christie, JetBlue’s Senior Vice President of Safety, Security and Air Operations. At Above the Clouds we have a program that provides training to those interested in aviation. The Cadet Flyers Program is a direct response to the growing number of young people who are either falling through the cracks at school or are involved with social service agencies due to poverty issues or difficult home situations. The drop-out rate in the Boston Public schools is unacceptably high, and almost one-third of the students do not graduate with their class.[1] Schools and social service agencies have been searching, often without success, for that elusive motivational tool that will serve as the conduit to encourage these teens to apply themselves, stay in school, achieve and follow a path toward a better future. Above the Clouds steps in to provide that missing motivational tool — the “coolness” of flight and the allure of learning to fly an airplane. Above the Clouds uniquely provides this programing on a cost-free basis for teens in need.

One of our Cadet Flyers, Kate, told us that “Above the Clouds has changed my life because they have shown me that there are always new opportunities in every direction. I never thought that I could learn to fly a plane but I took a chance and learned to believe in myself as much as they believed in me.” This program not only provides a path towards a career in aviation, but also provides the opportunity to learn about an industry they otherwise wouldn’t have known they were interested in.

Last month, Cadet Flyers took part in Jet Blue’s “ACE Academy Camp.” On Day One, student’s toured Logan Airport’s control tower, the tower simulator where the controllers train, and the JetBlue maintenance hangar where the teens saw an Airbus A320 up close while maintenance was being performed. On Day Two, they received a tour of Pease Air National Guard base in New Hampshire, hosted by a JetBlue pilot who also flies KC-135 tankers. The teens learned about many different professional aviation jobs including pilots and boom operators (the airmen who operate the equipment for aerial refueling.) Finally, on Day Three, the teens went to New Bedford to see the flight training department of Bridgewater State University and received ground school and simulator instruction. Each student even flew in a C-172 with one of the school’s flight instructors!

Our mission at Above the Clouds is to bring joy and hope through the wonder of small aircraft flight to children and teens who are seriously ill, disabled, underserved, or facing other serious adversity. The Cadet Flyers Program is one of the ways we aim to accomplish this goal. It is our hope that the Cadet Flyers Program will inspire some of these teens to pursue a career in aviation and help fill the need for pilots in the years to come.

[1] Boston Public Schools, Focus on Children, January 21, 2016

To learn more about the Cadet Flyers Program click here: www.abovethecloudskids.org/about-cadet-flyers/

NY Times Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/27/business/airlines-jobs-aspiring-pilots.html


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