At Above the Clouds, a non-profit organization based out of Norwood, Massachusetts, a team of pilots and other dedicated volunteers are working to bring joy and hope to children and teens through the wonder of small aircraft flight. They believe that getting the chance to sit in the co-pilots seat and soar above the clouds, will provide a brief, yet exciting respite for those who are ill, disabled, underserved or facing other serious adversity.
Above the Clouds was founded by attorney and instrument-rated private pilot, Gary Oberstein. For years, Gary provided free airplane rides in his 6-seater Piper Saratoga through charity auctions and events. He finally decided to create his own organization to pair his passion for aviation with his desire to help ill and underprivileged youth. Today, Above the Clouds has dozens of volunteer pilots who share Gary’s vision.
There are three different programs that Above the Clouds offers: Dream Flyers, Discovery Flyers, and Cadet Flyers. The Dream Flyers program is for children who are ill, disabled, experiencing homelessness, suffering the loss of a family member or other serious adversity. On their flight day, they sit in the co-pilot’s seat of a small airplane or helicopter, and actually take the controls! Dream Flyers helps these children escape their everyday struggles with a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Discovery Flyers introduces teenagers to the world of aviation through Discovery Pilot mentors. They fly regularly with their mentors to learn about operating an airplane and are given the opportunity to attend aviation-related field trips. Some of the exciting trips are a “fly-out” to the New England Air Museum in Connecticut and a special behind-the-scenes look at JetBlue, which includes exploring the cockpit of an Embraer 190, visiting the operations tower and speaking with mechanics, ground crew and pilots.
The third program offered by Above the Clouds is Cadet Flyers, a direct response to the growing numbers of youths who are failing out of school or involved with social service agencies due to difficult home situations. With the goal of teaching discipline and the importance of integrity, Above the Clouds uses this program as a motivational tool, to encourage teens to apply themselves and achieve goals. Cadet Flyers gradually learn how to fly an airplane, providing them with better self-esteem for a brighter future.
None of the amazing work that Above the Clouds does would be possible without the hard work and dedication of their volunteers. From the pilots who donate their time and aircraft to the flight coordinators who bring the pilots and flyers together to the ground crew volunteers who greet the families with signs and balloons and make flight day as exciting as possible. Together, they have used the joy of flight as the antidote for children in difficult situations and teenagers who need to find the right path to succeed.
If you are interested in learning more about Above the Clouds or to make a donation to sponsor a flyer, please click HERE.