August 5, 2022 : By Ted Allen - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
From not being able to walk or even remember his own family after taking a hit to the head during a high school football practice near Athens, Ga., on Aug. 15, 2016, to acing his first solo flight and receiving his private pilot’s certification this summer in Lynchburg, Va., the path to recovery from post-concussion syndrome has been an uplifting experience for Noah Bond, a rising junior in Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics.
“I had headaches, nausea, irritability, memory problems, a lot more than I can say,” Bond said. “I’d wake up, I’d be in pain; I’d go to sleep, I’d be in pain. (Now) I still have symptoms, but I’m on the right track. I have a little way to go, but the progress has been steady and I am so much better than I was back in 2016. Every day is just a little bit better. Every year is better than the last.”
“It’s been quite the road,” added Wes Bond, Noah’s father, who graduated from Liberty in 2019 with his own aeronautics degree and is now a first officer for Delta Airlines out of Atlanta. “There were a lot of mental, social, and emotional aspects to it. He more or less had to start life over. You can’t help but see God’s fingerprints in all of this.”
Noah Bond enrolled at Liberty in 2020 after witnessing his father walk across the graduation stage the year before.
“I knew this was where God wanted me to be, because I knew that I could be growing in Him here, more than anything,” he said. “I didn’t have my medical (clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)) at the time, so it has definitely been a big jump of faith, and I have felt a lot of comfort in what God has provided.”
School of Aeronautics Dean Dr. Rick Roof remembers meeting the Bond family at the 2019 Commencement.
“I encouraged them, but I also cautioned them that there would be a lot of hurdles in obtaining medical clearance,” Roof said of Noah. “It is a remarkable story of persistence and God’s amazing grace (and miracles), the next milestone in this amazing journey.”
Before learning to fly, Noah Bond had to relearn how to walk.
“I had balance issues, I lost a lot of muscle and strength, and had a lot of nerve pain,” he said. “I have had a ton of physical therapy and my body would be really sore and tight, my nerves would be bothering me, and I would have headaches that would affect me physically.”
Arriving at Liberty, Bond had to work harder than most of his peers to keep up with the challenging course load.
“I had to learn how to study and, coming to college, it was just on a heavier scale because there was so much information that I needed to know and I would have to push a lot harder to memorize all of that,” he said. “I was trying to do everything I could to be the best aviator I could, and I would be at the (Jerry Falwell) Library until 11 p.m. every night.”
He would listen to audio versions of the material he was reading to improve his comprehension.
“From that first semester, he exceled and made better grades than he had in high school, while building a social life,” Wes Bond said. “He has no difficulty at all making new memories. He was learning his own study needs and habits and making his own life in the world. All of a sudden, I have someone in my family talking aerodynamics and airspeed and mountain flying and weather with me. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do some flying together in the future.”
There was plenty of turbulence through the first two years of flight school, but it has been smoother sailing as of late.
“It’s definitely gotten a lot better, but I’m still making sure that I’m staying at the same pace, keeping the train moving, and maintaining the motivation to study as much as I can,” Noah Bond said. “Being at the top of the class is very nice, but I am thankful to be here at Liberty and I don’t want anything to stop that.”
That both Noah and younger brother Matthew, who arrives this month as a freshman, will be enrolled in Liberty’s aviation program this fall is a direct result of the route Wes Bond took in his mid-life career change.
“It derives from their father’s passion,” said Lisa Bond, their mother, who is a teacher. “He is an incredible man, and he has really tried to instill so many things into our children — a good work ethic, supporting and working for your family, but ultimately living a life for Christ.”
“My dad has been such an inspiration in times of talking with him about aviation,” Noah Bond added. “I’m definitely trying to tell (Matthew) about different aviation things, tips and tricks to get the wheels going faster.”
Receiving his first-class medical clearance from the FAA took Bond nearly 11 months. He and his family traveled to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Boston, where he had rehabilitated under renowned concussion specialist Dr. Robert Cantu, co-founder and medical director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which had awarded him a Resilience Award at its annual gala in 2017.
“I had to go to many doctors’ visits and evaluations,” said Bond, who is an advocate for concussion awareness and recovery. “(Dr. Cantu) had to give a report, a physical and cognitive update of my concussion evaluation.”
“It was quite the process,” Wes Bond added. “We had to jump through all kinds of different hoops, to sit down and explain his history to a neurologist and psychologist.”
Earning his private pilot’s license was the fulfillment of a dream that God planted in Bond’s heart and mind before and after the collision on the football field.
“With my accident, I lost all my memory, but I know that I wanted to be a pilot before, and I have dreamed about being a pilot ever since,” he said. “I was pretty emotional when I got back from the checkride (FAA’s practical exam), because I never thought I would be here with my rating, something I wanted for so long and prayed about for so long. I’m so thankful.”
“We were a really good team together,” added James Norton, Bond’s flight instructor for the past four months. “He passed his checkride on the first attempt and it definitely gave him a ton of confidence that he was able to land the airplane by himself. It was great to see a student who you never would have anticipated doing that, to see the light in his eyes as he was able to do it.”
Norton, who was hired as a certified flight instructor (CFI) in February 2020 after graduating from Liberty’s SOA the previous December, believes Bond would make an excellent CFI himself.
“Everyone loves him,” he said. “He has a great personality and a good work ethic.”
Bond is also interested in trying out for Liberty’s National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) competitive flight team this fall.
Looking back, Wes Bond — who, along with his wife, witnessed Noah’s pre-flight check supervised by Norton on the weekend of his first solo flight in early June — can see God’s plan unfolding for his son.
“There is a Scripture (Isaiah 55:8-9) about God’s ways being above our ways,” he said. “In that moment (of Noah’s injury), there were times where all I did was yell at God. Once you get over the shock and awe and start thinking about it … I don’t believe God made this happen, but I do believe He’s capable of using it. We can’t help but give God the glory for all of this.”
Regardless of whether or not Noah follows his father’s career path into commercial aviation, Wes Bond is confident that he will stay in the center of the Lord’s will for his life, as he has remained in the palm of His hand throughout his recovery.
“We have always supported him in whatever he wants to do,” he said. “In making my mid-life career change and finishing my degree online, I prayed that those efforts would not only benefit me, but also show my family that, if you put the effort in, anything’s possible. It’s definitely the hand of God. We don’t know what the ripple effects are going to be, (but Noah is showing) what God is capable of doing.”