About AcroGimp

I had my first airplane ride in a Cessna 172 in the Fall of 1973, at the age of 3, travelling from Jefferson City, MO (KJEF) to Joplin, MO (KJLN).  During this fateful flight the pilot who had been chartered to fly me, my Mother and my 6-month old little brother asked me if I would like to fly the plane, and my world has never been the same since.  Obsessed with all things aviation, I longed to again fly, but there was an obstacle.

Born with a club foot, and after multiple corrective surgery attempts, I had my right foot amputated at the age of 12.  As a result of the amputation, my parents and I believed I would be unable to earn a pilot’s license, until a detailed review of the Federal Aviation Regulations showed that if I could qualify for a Statement Of Demonstrated Ability (SODA) Waiver showing I could safely manipulate the controls of an aircraft, I could in fact hold a pilot’s license.

With this new knowledge, I sought out an experienced flight instructor, and began my flight training while a sophomore in High School.  Over the course of several years and different instructors, I went on to earn my Private Pilot’s license in 1992, adding an Instrument Rating and earned my Commercial Pilot’s License in 2000 – I have qualified for a SODA since 1987, and have held all the way to a First Class Medical Certificate.

I currently have close to 400 hours with flight experience in more than 30 different make/model fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

Professionally, I am currently Manager, Product Support Engineering Group for an Engineering Services company in San Diego, CA.  I have nearly 20 years of Technical and Management experience in Reliability, Maintainability & Safety Engineering, Integrated Logistics Support, Systems and Project Engineering, and Technical Documentation supporting Aerospace and Defense companies such as Hawker-Beechcraft Corporation, Eclipse Aviation, Dassault FalconJet, ITT, BAE Systems, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation, Embraer, and The Spaceship Company.

Additionally, I have served on Air Transport Association (ATA) Working Groups defining Digital Display and Flight Operations approaches for the airline industry, and the FAA/industry panel that developed Advisory Circular AC120-76A Guidelines for the Certification, Airworthiness and Operational Use of Electronic Flight Bags.

I was introduced to aerobatics by airshow pilot Chuck Coleman while on an assignment in Mojave.  I intend to begin competing in the International Aerobatic Club (IAC) Sportsman class.  To my knowledge, I will be the only amputee currently competing in IAC events.

I want to share my passion for aviation and hope to help others see that disabilities and other challenges can be overcome with focus, persistence and passion.

This blog will cover my favorite aviation interests and passtimes, flying – Real World (Aerobatic and GA), Flight Simulation, and Remote Control.

Aircraft Flown To-Date (logged stick time):

General Aviation Airplanes (15)

  • Beechcraft BE-23 Sundowner
  • Beechcraft V35 Bonanza (H Model with IO-520 upgrade)
  • Beechcraft A-36 Bonanza
  • Beechcraft B-55 Baron
  • Cessna 150
  • Cessna 152 Aerobat
  • Cessna 172
  • Cessna 172 AvCon conversion (200hp and CS Prop)
  • Cessna 175 (Javelin Ford V-6 testbed)
  • Cessna 182
  • Grumman AA-5 Traveller
  • Grumman AA-5A Cheetah
  • Piper PA-28-161 Warrior II
  • Piper PA-28-200R Arrow II
  • Piper Colt

Aerobatic (6)

  • Aeronca 7GCBC Citabria (CERT)
  • Aeronca 7KCAB Citabria (CERT)
  • Christen Eagle II Competition Aerobatic Biplane (EXP)
  • Extra 300L Unlimited Competition Aerobatic Monoplane (CERT)
  • Great Lakes 2T-1A-2 (CERT)
  • Grob G 103 Twin Astir Aerobatic Glider (CERT)

Experimentals (13)

  • Experimental Cozy III
  • Experimental Epic LT Turboprop
  • Experimental Glasair I-FT
  • Experimental Glasair I-RG
  • Experimental Glasair I-TD
  • Experimental Lancair Legacy Turbo
  • Experimental Merlin GT
  • Experimental Rutan Long-EZ 118 hp
  • Experimental Rutan Long-EZ 160 hp
  • Experimental Sportsman 2+2
  • Experimental Thorp T-18
  • Experimental Van’s RV-8
  • Experimental Velocity

Military/Warbird (6)

  • Beechcraft T-34A Mentor
  • Boeing N2S-3 Stearman
  • Cessna T-41A
  • Hawker-Beechcraft T-6A Texan II Turboprop Military Trainer
  • Nanchang CJ-6 Military Trainer
  • Yakovlev Yak-52 Military Trainer

Helicopters (1)

  • Robinson R-22b Helicopter

Ultralights (1)

  •  Spectrum RX-550 Beaver

7 Responses to About AcroGimp

  1. Ray says:

    Hello. I am a below knee amputee and student pilot. I am struggling a bit to figure out a groove with toe brakes. My biggest issue is transitioning from the rudder to the brakes on Landing. Example: I blew off my exit to my taxi way because I could not get into the right brake well enough to slow down without shooting to the left. For the most part I regulate things ok with my left foot but am still having issues, particularly while in a Right turn and trying to grab a little brake. Any suggestions or advice? I dont have anyone else to ask that has experience.

    • acrogimp says:

      Ray,

      First off, thanks for reading!

      So what kind of plane? For most Beech, Cessna and Piper planes I have flown (all nose draggers) I have never had much issue getting to the toebrakes, and for taildraggers we really don’t use the brakes on the runway (how I was taught anyway).

      For me, I see landing as a couple separate phases, final approach (all rudder), touchdown and initial coasting/deceleration (usually just rudder), and then braking and stop/turn-off (rudder and/or brake).

      Sounds like you are doing the same as I do in that I basically just mash with my right leg trying to get both the rudder pedal and the toe-brake if needed, and then modulate with my left foot/ankle.

      For tighter quarters (aprons and taxiways) I will move my whole leg up and get as sharp a stab on the toe brake as possible (assuming taxi speed or less of course) and then use as much pressure as it takes, since the rudder pedal will deflect when you hit the toebrake anyway.

      If you have not used MSFlight Simulator or X-Plane with a rudder pedal setup I would recommend trying that to help you since the good rudder pedals (I use the Saitek Pro pedals myself) include both a throw for rudder pedal input as well as a pivoting action for toe-brakes that is, In my opinion, a reasonable facsimile.

      If this remains a real challenge you might consider trying different equipment if available, for example the Cherokee/Warrior family have a hand-operated parking brake lever you can use to make even brake application during the initial stop, and that would alleviate some of the concern. The alternative is to find a Grumman Lynx/Traveller/Cheetah with a full swivel nose wheel, since that will simply force you to get on top of the transition and teach you force control, especially at slow speeds and in tight quarters.

      Good luck and feel free to ask questions as they come up.

      ‘Gimp

  2. Joe says:

    Hello, I am also a below the knee amputee and I am thinking about learning to fly, Should I be aware of how to begin lessons and will this be an issue to begin the process?

    • acrogimp says:

      Joe,

      Thanks for reading. For myself, the two big questions were could I qualify for a Medical Certificate, and would I eventually be able to hold a license – this is a bit dependent on type of disability but sounds similar enough to my situation to say these should probably not be an issue.

      I would say look around for a CFI who either has some experience with disabled students, or who shows no real concern over the disability. I would also suggest you look for more experienced CFI’s who teach because they like to, and not guys/gals who are building time for an airline career.

      If you have any local flight schools that offer a discovery flight try that first, especially if you haven’t flown in light aircraft.

      Depending on where you live, you may also find a school that fly the newer LSA type aircraft, which have a less restrictive medical requirement although the planes are somewhat limited in terms of performance and operation.

      If you commit to a Private Pilot’s License, you will probably have to get a Statement of Demonstrated Ability (SODA) Waiver, and that requires a checkride that must be with the FAA, no designees – not as big a deal as it sounds but it is important. I think I had to get my SODA before I could make my solo cross country flights but it’s almost 30 years ago now, I could be wrong.

      Good luck and feel free to ask if you have other questions.

      ‘Gimp

  3. Joe says:

    Thanks for the info. I’m located in Denver and plan to take a discovery flight. Do you have any issues with rudder/brakes when you began flying?

    • acrogimp says:

      Joe, for myself it took maybe a couple flights to get a sense for how to move from rudder to brake and back as needed. One thing about flying, it is alot about repetition/muscle-memory – so the more you do it, the better you get at doing it. Realistically, expect the CFI to have some questions about what you think you can and cannot do, and then demonstrate. Work on it in the cockpit on the ground before engine start, to get a feel for where the toe brake is compared to the rudder pedal, and what the pressure feels like on the brake vs the rudder.

      Good luck and blue skies!

      ‘Gimp

  4. Dimitry says:

    Gimp,

    Thanks for the website. I have a unique situation and was wondering if you had any advice. I started getting my pilots license a couple of times but stopped because of a couple disabilities. I was born with bilateral club and had multiple surgeries on both feet. I luckily have the ability to walk but do not have any range of motion in my ankles so toe brakes are a huge challenge. Second, I am only 5 ft tall so reaching the rudders has also been a challenge. I tried looking for planes that had hand brakes but have not come across any in the flight schools. I know I could retrofit a plane but not sure how to do that while training through a flight school. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Thanks
    -Dimitry

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