Over the next 10 years, Cole would endure surgery after surgery to salvage his body, including the amputation of an arm.
“I couldn't do anything,” Cole said. “For years I couldn't even take a shower by myself.”
Cole returned to his parents' Los Angeles home while he learned how to live again.
In 2003, Cole's dad decided the family needed a change of pace, and they moved to Edmond.
By 2009, Matt Cole had begun toying with the idea of getting back in a plane.
“I wanted to fly again,” he said. “After the accident, every doctor I talked to told me about something else I would never be able to do again. But I wanted to fly. I missed it.”
After hearing about Cole's yearning to get back in the sky, a friend offered to give him the chance.
Only eight years after he'd nearly died in a fiery plane crash, Cole was in the air again. His first flight was in an aircraft type that he knew well — the Piper Seneca.
Soon, Cole became determined to earn back his licenses and ratings.
“Of course I was scared at first,” Cole said, “but the more I flew, the better I got at it. I started to realize that I could do this.”
With the help of the FAA, Cole earned all of the ratings that he had previously held. In 2012, Cole was hired as a flight instructor by Crabtree Aircraft Co. in Guthrie.
Today he introduces people to the exciting world of aviation, giving them guidance on the importance of flying safely.
“It sounds crazy, but I think that the accident has made me a better pilot and a better instructor.” he says. “I teach my students to expect the unexpected, and to always be calm and ready if there's an emergency.”
Back in Guthrie, as the Cessna's tires squeak onto the runway, Cole cracks a smile. He's ready for a time-honored instructor's tradition — cutting the shirttail off his newly soloed students.
Will Eifert is conversion and reporting analytics specialist for OPUBCO.