Category Archives: Flights Above Addiction

News: SafeLaunch Teaches Kids About Dangers of Addiction in Creative Way

On October 1, 2016, SafeLaunch brought Flights Above Addiction and their interactive “static display” aircraft DJ to Ernest A. Love Field in Prescott, Arizona for the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) Fly-In. This was a very special event for SafeLaunch as the plane was greeted and cared for by some very special guests, “Wing Parents” of three of the young people who “fly” with the aircraft wherever it goes. The SafeLaunch founders are grateful to these families for sharing their child’s story to help break the stigma surrounding the disease of addiction and raise awareness of the high risks associated with teen drug and alcohol exposure. These young people are the Wind Beneath Our Wings.

11 October 2016 by

PRESCOTT- The death of a child is one of the most painful things a parent can go through. Bonnie and Floyd Waite went through this when their child, James, died six years ago at the age of 35 from addiction.

“It’s been six years to just deal with it,” said Bonnie.

“You never get over it,” Floyd added.

Bonnie and Floyd Waite are involved with SafeLaunch, a 501(c)(3) volunteer organization, whose goal is to inform both parents and children about addiction. The SafeLaunch plane was on display at the AOPA event at the Ernest A. Love Prescott Municipal Airport.

“We started SafeLaunch to educate parents about brain development,” said SafeLaunch co-founder Janet Rowse. “It turns out that most people don’t know that the real risk for kids and drug use is the fact that their brains are not fully developed.”

SafeLaunch is sending home the message of addiction dangers to children in creative ways. During the AOPA (Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association) Fly-In at the Ernest A. Love Field in Prescott, the organization brought a plane owned by fellow co-founder Ron Cuff and allowed children to make their own mark on the aircraft using markers and paint after learning a lesson about addiction dangers from Cuff and other volunteers.

“My hope is that by allowing kids to get this close to an airplane, become intimately familiar with it-the way it looks-the way it feels, perhaps inspire a dream in them,” said Cuff.

“I tell the kids that a good life is like a good flight. My flights have all been good because I plan for them, because I keep my mind sharp, because I always have a destination in mind and then I always have an alternate in mind,” Cuff continued. “So I tell the kids that they have to keep their mind sharp and they have to decide on what they plan to do with their life in order for it to be successful.”

Crazy Pilot Coming to AOPA’s Prescott, AZ Fly In

Hundreds of pilots will be coming to the AOPA Prescott Fly-In this Saturday, but only one will be letting young artists paint on his plane

Retired Navy Commander Ron Cuff is looking forward to his fellow AOPA pilot’s questions and comments, like: “Does that paint wash off?” and, “I sure hope that paint washes off!” Of course, the big question is why would a guy allow young people to do this to his plane not just once, but 23 times?

Ron Cuff and Janet Rowse are the co-founders of the Santa Barbara based nonprofit SafeLaunch, the name derived from Ron’s experience as a Navy carrier pilot, including 120 safe launches from 7 different aircraft carriers.

SafeLaunch invites parents to take the SafeLaunch Parent Pledge, and shares three key messages:

1) Know that 90% of addiction is contracted before age 18.
2) Preventing teen exposure to alcohol and drugs is not only important, it’s achievable.
3) Addiction isn’t a moral failure, it’s a brain disease.

Cuff says, “I tell young people that a good life is like a good flight. You have to chart your course, figure out what your destination is, keep your mind sharp (no drugs or alcohol) and fly direct.”

When asked if Ron is really a crazy pilot, Rowse says, “No, he’s just willing to go to great lengths to protect kids and the culture from addiction,” says Rowse. “If that means inviting kids to paint his plane, then he does it. After many events just like this, I can honestly say that when you combine art and aviation with kids, magic happens.”

The wings of the SafeLaunch plane, a 2000 model Cessna Skylane, also serve as a flying memorial for over 200 young people ages 17-35 who have died from drugs or alcohol. The names beneath the wings speak silently to other parents, giving new meaning to the lives of young people who died too young. Their stories, in the Wind Beneath Our Wings album that flies with them, show that addiction can happen to anyone, and their beautiful young faces demonstrate to the youth artists that addiction happens to people who were “just like them”. Parents who have suffered the ultimate pain of losing a child from drugs or alcohol are invited to submit their child’s story on their website,

2016-aopa-prescottThis SafeLaunch event is co-sponsored by Hope Takes Flight Prescott. Come visit the SafeLaunch plane this Saturday at the AOPA Fly-In. Visitors can write the name of a deceased family member on the plane that will fly with the new colorful paint job back to Santa Barbara on its return. Contact SafeLaunch at or 805-283-7233 for more information.

Wings Over Camarillo Air Show Youth Attendees to Paint their Dreams on a Cessna

Flights Above Addiction

An interactive aircraft exhibit for artistic youth and aviation enthusiasts comes to Wings Over Camarillo on August 20 & 21 with an important message

SafeLaunch will be bringing the “Flights Above Addiction” aircraft to the Wings Over Camarillo Airshow Saturday and Sunday, August 20 and 21, to offer teens and pre-teens the chance to paint her fuselage with real paint. While famous aerobatic competitors Vicky Benzing, Dr. Frank Donnelly, Judy Phelps, John Collver and Tim Lust soar overhead, youth air show attendees, including some members from the Boys and Girls Club of Camarillo, will be painting their dreams for a healthy future onto the Cessna 182 named, “DJ”.  DJ, owned by former Point Mugu Missile Test Pilot and SafeLaunch Co-Founder Ron Cuff, is the focal point for SafeLaunch, a primary addiction prevention nonprofit based in Santa Barbara.

“Kids, like pilots, need to stay sharp”, says Cuff, “and just like planning for a successful flight, kids need to have a life plan with a destination. Without a plan, a young person is far more susceptible to experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and going off course.”

SafeLaunch uses art and DJ to raise awareness about the high risk of addiction to young brains. “Fourteen year olds are up to six times more susceptible to developing a dependency to drugs and alcohol than are adults”, co-founder and co-pilot Janet Rowse says. “Going to airshows gives us the opportunity to meet families one-on-one and encourage them to do everything possible to prevent addiction where it starts 90% of the time… with early exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.” See Wings Over Camarillo for tickets and air show information. See SafeLaunch for more information or email to get involved.

SafeLaunch is a registered California nonprofit, Tax ID #46-2832792. Through educational programs for families including Flights Above Addictionⓒ, Wind Beneath Our Wings, parent education seminars, and Media $500 Contestsⓒ, the number of children exposed to drugs and alcohol is reduced.