12-Year-Old Girl Boards Air Force Reserve Plane

C-130 Hercules

MOON TWP. -- Joe Carter could tell just by looking at his 12-year-old daughter that she was having a great day.

After years of dealing with congenital conditions, the Pine Township girl was nominated for the Pilot for a Day program at the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 911th Airlift Wing by her doctor.

Norah Carter spent the day at the Moon Township base and got to climb into a C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Norah traveled on the ground in the plane, held a press conference, and used a virtual reality headset to simulate a parachute landing.

She was born with one kidney and had surgery for hip dysplasia when she was a few months old.

Dr. Mark Sangimino first anticipated several of the orthopedic issues that Norah had, and that early detection has dramatically helped her, her mother, Rebecca Mettee-Carter, said Wednesday.

Sangimino and other Allegheny Health Network representatives recommended Norah for the pilot program, which took the family by surprise. Norah's father, Joe Carter, said they didn't apply for the program, and they didn't even know it existed.

As part of the program, Norah held a press conference because of her interest in journalism. She started the event with the ground rule that the media couldn't ask her any questions about Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

"Just by the looks on her face, she was pretty excited. It's pretty exhilarating," Carter said.

Her mother stressed that Allegheny Health Network representatives have helped make Norah's health challenges positive. The mother of two cried during parts of the day as she saw her daughter and heard her speak.

Norah has had six major orthopedic surgeries. She said she's never been afraid her doctors would mess up any operation because they've been so reassuring.

Last Halloween, she dressed up as aviator Amelia Earhart, wearing a trench coat and aviator goggles. Her riding instructor's spouse also helped create props so a horse could be dressed up as a plane, complete with wings.

On Wednesday, Air Force Reserve members revved up the propellers of the C-130 and taxied the aircraft with her around the airbase.

Her parents watched while standing near the runway, and she popped her head and arm out the top to wave as the plane roared past.

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