“I grew up with a lot of helicopters overhead, and I always wanted to fly or have something to do with aviation,” said Kayla Foliente. “When I’m up there, I just feel free—my physical limitations don’t matter as much.”
Kayla, 21, has always wanted to become a pilot. She is an active member of Civil Air Patrol – the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, and works with radios along with being a UAS technician, meaning she helps assist with search and rescue missions using drones. She joined Civil Air Patrol with hopes of eventually flying but was grounded due to a physical disability that impacts her mobility.
Kayla has been a regular fixture at Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) since she was 12. You may recognize her last name—her dad, Rod, had beloved WCC service dog Cadence, who passed away in 2022. This year, Rod graduated with his second WCC service dog, Hixon. Kayla has attended several graduations, programs, and events at WCC, getting to know WCC’s staff all along the way.
“They [Cadence and Hixon] completely changed our lives, and they kept our family together,” said Kayla. “Cadence saved my dad’s life, and I will always be grateful. And Hixon has done a great job carrying on her legacy.”
During a recent visit to WCC, Kayla mentioned her love of planes to Kim Vaughan, WCC’s director of facilities, who lives in an air park. And it wasn’t long after a plan was set into motion.
“Knowing how passionate Kayla is about flying, I asked some neighbors who own a Cessna if they would be willing to take her up, and I think they were just as excited about it as Kayla was,” said Kim Vaughn, WCC director of facilities. “Linda and Randy Burdette, both who are Army Veterans, graciously flew not only Kayla, but also her dad Rod and Kayla’s mom, Christina, for an afternoon cruise. It was a great day.”
Kayla added, “It was incredible … Randy let me help fly and help land, and it just felt so natural, I just loved it. Basically, anything aviation, I want in on it … my head is always in the clouds.”
As a thank you to Linda and Randy, Kayla, who is also a talented artist, drew a photo of their plane for them.
Shortly thereafter, Kayla was invited to the Flying Circus Aerodrome and Air Show in Bealeton, Va. While there, pilot Chuck Tippett flew her in his Waco, and another pilot flew Kayla in his Grasshopper.
As a thank you, Kayla broke out her brushes and painted a remarkable picture for Chuck of his Waco.
“It was just incredible, I am so thankful for these amazing opportunities,” said Kayla.
Asked about any turbulence on the flights, Kayla replied, “The more bumps, the better!”
Special thanks to Linda and Randy Burdette, Chuck Tippett, WCC’s Kim Vaughan and all the folks at the Flying Circus, and everyone else who made these special flights possible!