Today, it was our privilege to welcome the Handy family to Bedford Landings Air Tours. I met Cindy playing racquetball a few years ago. Her husband Dan also plays (when he’s not falling off a roof getting injured!). We have become friends over time and she even purchased one of my children’s books (Cloudy with a Chance of Dreams). She bought the book for her son, Brandon, who is about 30 years old. Brandon loves airplanes and was very interested in taking a flight with Jack over Smith Mountain Lake.
The challenge was how to get Brandon into the airplane. Brandon was born with Cerebral Palsy and has been in a wheel chair nearly his whole life. The cause of Cerebral Palsy is a brain injury or brain malformation that occurs while the brain is developing — before, during, or after birth. As a result of the brain damage during brain development a child’s muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance can be affected. It can also impact a fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and oral motor functioning.
It goes without saying how much Cindy and Dan love Brandon but witnessing their loving care was a gift. I observed the way they used gentle touches with him and interpreted conversation so we could all determine the best way to help Brandon obtain his dream to fly. He had gone to bed early the night before, rested well in preparation for his flight, and was up early to prepare to be on time. At the appointed 9:00 hour, Cindy drove up in their van equipped with a wheelchair lift; and out rolled Brandon in his well-appointed Cadillac of a chair that he could control with head manipulations.
We managed to get his chair close to the Cessna and determined that the rear seat provided more space for him. Between Jack and Dan lifting and Cindy inside the plane, receiving and adjusting, we got him situated. He was thrilled and kept telling Jack that he already “loved him!” Holding tight to Cindy, they were ready for take off. Dan took the front seat.
Jack said that while flying them over the lake, he could hear Brandon in the headset saying “Oh, Wow!” This, of course made the flight so joyful for the pilot. And Cindy said that this was the happiest she had seen Brandon in some time.
When they landed and we were able to get Brandon safely back into his comfy chair.
Using his head controls, Brandon rolled into the hangar to see the Pietenpol Air Camper that Jack built and that was pictured in the book Cindy had purchased. In addition, he saw Jack’s new plane under construction. When Jack showed him a photo of a completed RV-10, he said, “When you get that one finished, you can take me in that plane too!”
Indeed, Brandon. We simply enjoyed having you and your family here! It has been our privilege to fly with you!