Blind Pilot Trains on Flight Simulator


Kaiya continues Flight for Sight training at Aerial Engagement


By Chloe Ranshaw


Kaiya sits wearing a pink t-shirt and black glasses in a dark room looks at a flight simulator control panel and screens


Blind 21-year-old and soon-to-be pilot, Kaiya Armstrong, continues training on flight simulator at Aerial Engagement in Scottsdale, Ariz. Kaiya’s training as part of Foundation for Blind Children’s Flight for Sight is almost complete.

“What’s great about a simulator is you can hit the pause button”, says Jackie Whitford, Kaiya’s ground school instructor. “When you’re up in the air, you don’t pause anything”, she continues with a laugh.

Kaiya’s been training in-air out of Falcon Field Airport since April. Due to Kaiya’s visual impairment, she is unable to read the plane’s panel of instruments and gauges. She relies on touch, some of the plane’s machinery is varied in texture. She also relies on sound, the pitch of the plane changes as it ascends or descends. Lastly, Kaiya relies on a co-pilot, or in this case a sighted guide, to relay the instruments readings and other key markers.

At Aerial Engagement, Kaiya flew a simulation of a Cirrus II out of the Scottsdale Airport. The simulator is Federal Aviation Administration certified. Hours spent training on the simulator can be logged towards FAA training requirements.

“We’re trying to disrupt the flight training industry by creating a public venue for anybody who wants to use simulators”, says Mark Lambert from Aerial Engagement.

The center offers a variety of simulators including Cessna, Piper Seminole, Cirrus and glider simulators at a fraction of the cost and time compared to in-air training. “More than anything else, we really get a charge out of helping people get into the air especially those who are battling some hurdles”, says Mark.

Kaiya will continue to conquer her hurdles and training through July. She will fly from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., stopping in Colorado Springs, Kansas City and Louisville, come October.