Sixteen-year-old Nick Coleman first became interested in flying about five years ago. Like so many others who’ve fallen in love with aviation, Coleman says the thing that draws him is the feeling of freedom he experiences while up in the air. But unlike many others, Coleman has had to overcome a number of health challenges to pursue his passion for flight. He suffers from high functioning autism, tourettes and mitochondrial disease, and uses a wheelchair to get around at school.
Despite those obstacles, Coleman has been able to realize his dream of flight thanks to an aviation organization known as Above the Clouds. The nonprofit provides airplane rides to seriously ill and underprivileged kids in order to “bring joy through the wonder of flight,” as its tagline says.
Nick’s father, Paul, says flying has provided a safe haven where Nick “can hide and get away from any problems or distractions that he encounters throughout the day. Since he became interested in flying, Nick has been working on his speech so he doesn’t stutter as much.”
Check out the poem below, and hear in Nick’s own words just what flying means to him.
_In the air, I am free. In the air, there is much more to see. _
_On the ground, I am bound. As I look up, people look down. _
“Dream Flight”. Is it the dream of flight, or the flight of a dream?
From where I sat, the sky appeared gray and foreboding.
Perhaps my freedom should be postponed for another day?
The sky, like life, is not always what is seems;
We pushed on through the clouds and greeted the sun’s shining beams.
Mind racing, hands trembling, I traded wheels for wings.
Bumping, jerking, vibrating disappeared with the gentle pressure of overcoming Earth’s gravity.
The racing of the engine echoed the racing of my heart, both straining to escape their confines.
The barriers, the challenges, the ridicule, the pain melted away as the journey began.
All the stairs, all the difficulty, it would disappear.
The controls in hand, I became the master of my movements, the ruler of my rambling. Apprehension turned to delight, and then to serenity as we sliced through clouds and pierced sunbeams.
In the air, I can see the world
On the ground, I can only see my town.
In the air, I can go anywhere.
On the ground, I can’t go there.
In the air, there’s not a care.
On the ground, there’s no one around.
_In the air, I am free. _
In the air, I am “ME.”
In our Flying Matters series, we focus on the great work being done by aviation-related non-profits and charitable organizations. To help contribute to our series with your organization, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.