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Visually-impaired pilots get chance to fly from Arizona to Washington, DC

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Posted at 6:24 PM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 12:49:11-05

PHOENIX, Ariz. (KNXV) — Jorge Castro, Kaiya Armstrong, and Adam Frackiewicz all have three important things in common. Each of them has a yearning for adventure, massive ambition and lives their life visually impaired.

“Pushing my own boundaries, it gives me confidence,” said Frackiewicz, who was born with retinopathy prematurity.

“You got to be fearless as well,” seconded Castro, who was born with congenital glaucoma.

“In my family, I’m described as the adrenaline junkie,” said Armstrong, who began losing her sight as a teen.

This fall, one of them could be co-piloting a plane from Phoenix to Washington, D.C. as part of The Foundation for Blind Children’s “Flight for Sight” event. It’s the latest in a long line of challenges officials with the nonprofit believe encourage students to push their limits.

“In 2009, we had team Kili set four world records for youngest blind climber, first blind United States veteran, first climber with albinism, and largest blind group to summit the tallest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro,” said Spencer Churchill, who works with the nonprofit, which provided education, tools and services that enable all persons with vision loss to achieve greater independence.

Churchill is a longtime employee and has been there alongside his students during a number of challenges that, at first glance, seemed impossible for someone with a visual impairment — from kayaking and hiking the Grand Canyon, to swimming San Francisco Bay from Alcatraz.

Their mission with Flight for Sight is to take the mentality of "anything’s possible," to new heights. Currently, the organization has identified 20 students who are eager to make the trip. However, only one will be chosen.

“The student will be trained to fly in the left seat as the pilot in charge,” said Churchill.

Over the next few months, the student chosen will go through the extensive ground and air flight training; eventually leading to the ability to take off, fly the plane for thousands of miles, and land. An expert pilot will also be by their side just in case.

“To be able to pilot a plane from here to Washington, D.C., to be able to prove to the world that there really isn’t a limit, that’s unbelievable,” said Armstrong.

If all goes to plan, takeoff for Washington, D.C. will take place in October.

This story was originally reported by Cameron Polom on abc15.com.