Although the International Wheelchair Aviators (IWA) organization began in 1972 as just a monthly "fly to lunch" group of four paraplegic aviators from the Southern California area, it has developed into a worldwide group of disabled and able bodied (A/B) pilots interested in aviation and flying.
The mission of the IWA is to help disabled pilots in their quest to fly by providing valuable information about Federal Aviation Association (FAA) medical requirements, hand control availability and flight schools that work with those confined to wheelchairs.
Members have many different disabilities including paraplegia, quadriplegia, amputee, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, polio and other problems.
Through their hard work and persistence and with the help of a tolerant FAA medical system, hundreds of disabled pilots have been given the opportunity to fly, many to resume flying careers and others to fly for the first time.
Over the part 25 years, several hundred disabled pilots have flown thousands of hours all over the world and in many different types of aircraft using hand controls or whatever was necessary to operate the aircraft as pilot in command.
The majority of members fly primarily for enjoyment, though some utilize their planes for transportation bypassing the regular pinched confines and schedules of the airlines. Several members are professional air show performers.
Disabled pilots are flying all types of planes that are specially equipped with hand controls. Aircraft include Cessna 150, 172, 182, 210, 337, Cardinal, Cutlass Piper, Cherokee 140, 180, 235, Arrow, Six, Saratoga, Lance Beechcraft, Bonanza, Debonair, A-36, Baron and Duke.
The global organization also provides a current listing of disabled pilots, their injuries, type of plane flown, hand controls used, telephone and address.
Anyone flying enthusiast can join the organization by visiting IWA's website and submitting an application. Click here for more information: International Wheelchair Aviators. The site also features information on flight schools, where to find aircraft with hand controls, equipment information, and a wide range of pilot resources.
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