Four recent cancer survivors received a special thrill this month as they took to the skies and learned the basics of piloting an aircraft, courtesy of the 4th Annual Big Sky Kids Cancer Survivor Flight Camp.

Launched in 2014, the camp is co-sponsored by NBAA member Summit Aviation, a full-service aircraft management, brokerage and general aviation flight training provider located in Belgrade, MT; and Eagle Mount, a Bozeman, MT-based nonprofit that provides people with disabilities and young people with cancer with therapeutic recreational opportunities.

During the week, camp participants, all of whom have successfully completed hard-fought battles with cancer and now are in remission, attended ground school and hands-on flight training with volunteers from Summit Aviation’s staff of FAA-licensed certified flight instructors. On the final day, each student performed an unassisted takeoff and landing.

“This flight camp puts the cancer survivor in a position that they have rarely ever been – in control,” said Ben Walton, president and founder of Summit Aviation. “They decide if the airplane is safe for flight, when to take it airborne, where to fly, and how to land. The decision-making ability that was taken from them at a young age with the single word ‘cancer’ is given back to them.”

Camp participants learned basic aircraft control and flight maneuvers while soaring above some of the most picturesque countryside Montana has to offer. Students also toured facilities at Bozeman International Airport. Each day concluded with a ground lesson, where instructors taught aircraft systems, aerodynamics and tips for landing smoothly.

The Cancer Survivor Flight Camp is part of Eagle Mount’s Big Sky Kids program, which hosts oncology camps for young cancer patients and survivors. The camp is funded through private donations, and is free to the selected participants.

“Support from our generous sponsors and an incredibly supportive community make this life-changing experience possible,” said Walton.

Learn more about Summit Aviation.

Learn more about Eagle Mount.