Flying Over Chautauqua: How an Autism Diagnosis Can’t Keep You From Conquering the Sky

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And Kaylee has enough will to make her fly.

Kaylee’s passion for flying began when she was very young, on rides with her grandparents to visit the Chautauqua County Airport in Dunkirk, NY. By age 4, she was eager to go there daily before heading to kindergarten. Her grandparents took her to her first “Fly-in Breakfast” at age 10, where she participated in her first of many discovery flights. Over the years, she attended several Fly-in Breakfasts and had numerous flights, continuing to foster her love of aviation.

In 2017, Kaylee had the opportunity to fly in a powered parachute in Silver Creek, NY, after talking with pilots who offered her the chance. She attended the Air Show in Dunkirk, where she was captivated by the Wing Walker and aspired to become one herself.

Kaylee has developed a fondness for several airplanes, giving them unique names like “Beachy,” “Flaggy,” “Black Cherry,” “Dandelion,” “Apache,” and “Cappy.” Even more than bequeathing special names, Kaylee has also flown each one of these plans and has practiced steering take-offs and landings in “Beachy,” “Flaggy,” and “Black Cherry.”

Her involvement with the Civil Air Patrol began when she chatted with an aviator about the organization. After learning more about it, she was invited to their next meeting and has been with the Civil Air Patrol for over three years. As a cadet, she has participated in various events, including National Wreaths Across America, Memorial Day, the Silver Creek Festival of Grapes, and various beach clean-ups.

Kaylee’s dedication to the Civil Air Patrol has been the foundation of her work as a leader, as she is constantly being tested in drills, physical fitness, and other challenging activities. She earned several ribbons and promotions, including an honor from the Wright Brothers in December 2023, where she was promoted to Cadet Staff Sergeant and awarded a certificate at the annual Military Ball recently held in Amherst, NY.

Kaylee’s goal is to become a pilot, and she continues to pursue her passion for flying with the motto “Just a Girl That Loves to Fly.” Her journey is an inspiring example of how dedication and passion can overcome any obstacle.

Kaylee enjoys participating in the Aspire of WNY’s iXpress art program with the Dunkirk-Fredonia Collaborative. Kaylee has worked on a Snowy Owl painting, Wonder Woman (minus the Invisible Jet), and a wooden model airplane. The information and photos for this article have been provided by Kaylee’s very proud family and were submitted by Jeff Dietz, an Art Facilitator in Chautauqua County for Aspire of WNY. 

We’ll look up to the sky for that girl who loves to fly! Keep up the great work, Kaylee, and we’re proud to support you and your goals.