Category Archives: Flights Above Addiction

Safely Launching Kids at the 2017 California Capital Airshow

Sacramento, California experienced hot weather and even hotter demonstration flying at the California Capital Airshow on September 9 and 10. And thanks to the generous support of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society Alliance, SafeLaunch was there to pose the hot question, “Do you know how to prevent addiction?” to hundreds of families attending the two day event to ensure that they could answer, “Yes!”


“DJ”, the all-white Cessna plane, is the centerpiece of the SafeLaunch Healthy Futures program, “Flights Above Addiction“. Flying to airshows across California to inform young families about the extreme risk of drug exposure to developing brains while offering youth the unique opportunity to paint their dreams for a healthy future onto DJ, SafeLaunch gives parents tools they need to protect their families.

Due to the opiate epidemic sweeping our country, experts and laypeople are trying to understand how over 150 people are dying every day to the disease of addiction and what we can do to stop it. Sadly, Mr. and Mrs. Eckhardt, and millions of more parents like them, understand the problem too well. As SafeLaunch “Wing Parents”, they came out to see their son Connor’s name affixed to one of DJ’s wings, as part of the SafeLaunch Wind Beneath Our Wings program. Connor’s story is a poignant lesson to all: drug use can devastate or end anyone’s life.

SafeLaunch offers tools to protect children from early drug and alcohol exposure. Along with the knowledge that 9 out of 10 cases of addiction are rooted in adolescent brain exposure to intoxicants, parents must take specific steps to protect their families. One of those steps is securing all drugs and alcohol in the home. To help them get started, SafeLaunch gave away coupons for a locking medicine bottle by local company, Safer Lock Rx and provided a companion prevention guide produced in conjunction with our friends at Pathway to Prevention. The future is bright for informed and well-equipped families!

If you are a parent with children of any age, you can help the SafeLaunch mission fly further and faster by taking the Parent Pledge online.

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.