The Ottumwa Courier

Education

July 31, 2013

Soaring above the odds

OTTUMWA — A horrific motorcycle accident years ago hasn't stopped one Indian Hills student from fulfilling his dream of becoming a pilot.

Scott Miller was a young National Guardsman riding his motorcycle home to Albia from drill in Des Moines when he hit a pothole and flew onto nearby railroad tracks, snapping his back at the T9 and T10 vertebrae, paralyzing him from the waist down.

Miller, now 25, is now in the midst of aviation pilot training at Indian Hills Community College. His father's career as a helicopter mechanic with the U.S. Marine Corps always interested Miller, but actually learning to fly was never part of his plan.

That was until he went to an annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., where he learned that a friend's father was a paraplegic and owned his own air ambulance business.

"He wasn't paralyzed his whole life either," he said. "He flew planes and started a small charter company with a buddy. He came down and landed too hard and broke his back and ended up paralyzed."

Eventually, an instructor took Miller on a flight for a couple hours over Sturgis.

"I was hooked ever since," he said.

A few days after returning from Sturgis last year, Miller called Jane Berg, Indian Hills' chief flight instructor, less than two weeks before the fall term began.

He asked if there was any way he could still get into the 21-month program. Yes, she said, but you'll need medical clearance.

Well, he said, I'm in a wheelchair. But that didn't deter Berg from letting him in the program.

Since Indian Hills didn't have the hand control apparatus when Miller started school in August, assistant chief flight instructor Jim Anderson started training him in the simulator. Finally, earlier this year, Miller received medical clearance.

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