Flying with his feet, and making a difference

Russell Churchwell flies model plans with his feet
Russell Churchwell flies model plans with his feet
Most people can't fly a model airplane with their hands...
Most people can't fly a model airplane with their hands...

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It's another day on the field for 20-year old Russell Churchwell, another day to feel free and soar.

"I've been doing this my whole life," said Churchwell.

Once paralyzed but now able to walk, Churchwell knew early on things would be different.

"So I had to adapt at a really young age to do things without my arms," said Churchwell.

Different but not limited. Churchwell's grandfather, Jessie Yarborough, made sure of that by introducing young Russell to the art of flying model airplanes.

"This is something to get him out of the house," said Yarborough.

On this day Russell Churchwell is flying on the field the 'Fountain City Fliers' use for their fly days in Autaugaville.

Curtis Wilson calls Churchwell's ability nothing short of amazing and humbling.

"To get out and do what he does, I have enough trouble trying to fly these planes with my hands. Imagine doing it with your feet," said Wilson.

It's a lot more difficult than it looks. It involves more than tickling a few buttons on the wireless transmitter.

"When you're using your hands, you have to work the elevator and rudder.. the same things a real pilot does," said Wilson.

With Russell Churchwell at the controls, the bi-plane whizzes by.. does a few twists and turns..  and at one point it seems, the craft just hangs in the air hundreds of feet up.

"I normally do this," said Churchwell.

In other words, a piece of cake for Russell Churchwell until it's time to land.

"This is the most difficult part, the landing. You gotta make sure you don't come in too fast," said Churchwell.

Not a perfect landing but pretty darn close. More than good enough for a young man with a disability. Russell Churchwell has also mastered the challenge of driving his own vehicle where ever he needs to go.

"I can pretty much do anything like driving and changing TV channels," said Churchwell.

That kind of can-do spirit has certainly made a difference around these parts in Autaugaville.

"Russell just gets out there and enjoys life," said Wilson.

Enjoying life to the fullest, overcoming adversity.. feet first.

Churchwell is a college student majoring in computer science. With that degree he wants to design applications for those with disabilities.

Be sure to attend the Ed Smith Fountain City War Birds Fly-In Air Show, free of charge on Friday and Saturday December 3rd and 4th on County Road 21 West in Autaugaville.

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