Rick Amber founded Challenge Air with the belief that, "every disabled person should see the world from a different view…out of their wheelchairs and in the sky." This belief of Amber's came from his own experience. As a fighter pilot and training officer in the US Navy from 1967 to 1971, Amber lost the use of his legs when his jet crashed during a landing attempt on the aircraft carrier USS Hancock. He was returning from his 109th combat mission over Vietnam, in high seas, when the ship's landing system failed. At twenty-six years old, Rick was a quadriplegic and bound to a wheelchair.
Rick was born in Dallas, Texas on July 17, 1944. Rick graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1967. After his accident in 1971, Rick came back to Dallas and received a Master's of Science degree in Environmental Science from the University of Texas - Dallas (1978) and Bachelor of Fine Arts from SMU (1984).
While working toward his later degree Amber's love of flying rekindled his desire to return to the air. In 1993 while teaching math and science at Greenhill School in Dallas he was asked to design a curriculum for an aviation class. It was then that he realized how much he missed flying....but, being in a wheelchair didn’t stop him.
Rick began teaching ground school in the evenings in exchange for the flying hours he needed to become certified with the FAA. In less than one year, Rick earned his license as both a Commercial Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor. His pilot qualifications included 3,500 hours of commercial flying. He held every available flight and instrument rating and remained current in his ratings by passing an extensive FAA-administered, proficiency flight check every six months, with hand controls.
Rick had many athletic interests and accomplishments. In 1993 he won the USTA (U.S. Open) National Wheelchair Tennis Championship, Men's Singles Division. Not soon after that event Rick’s work with children began in earnest. While teaching wheelchair tennis to newly challenged youth Rick realized he was in a unique position to share his love of flight with “kids on wheels.”
Rick invited a small group of physically challenged children to the Addison Airport, a suburb of Dallas, to take them soaring over the city's famous skyline. After experiencing their attitude change about their disability to see a pilot in a wheelchair fly an airplane, the idea of Challenge Air was born.
In 1993, Rick purchased a Cessna 177B Cardinal airplane and modeled a set of hand controls to work the brake and rudder pedals. Amber got Challenge Air's status as a nonprofit organization established. Shortly thereafter, Rick began to fly special needs children at community events nationwide.
In May 1997, Rick passed away with cancer. Today his legacy lives on through the board, staff, volunteers and thousands of volunteer pilots who continue the mission of building self-esteem and confidence in children with special needs.
Welcome to the Challenge Air fan page!
Challenge Air for Kids and Friends, a not-for-profit, Texas-based organization, joins with communities and families to host exciting special events, nationwide, where they inspire physically, mentally challenged and seriously ill children and young adults from 7 to 21 by providing the opportunity to fly in small airplanes piloted by both wheelchair and non-wheelchair aviators.
The Challenge Air program, which utilizes occupational, recreational, and educational therapy through flying, inspires thousands of special needs, challenged young people to soar above their perceived limitations. Challenge Air for Kids and Friends was founded for the purpose of giving these young people a chance and a choice to see the world from a different view. A view from the sky!
The Challenge Air experience helps challenged young people renew their faith in themselves and strive to reach for the sky. They are taught to realize their dreams and goals are indeed possible. The opportunity that is Challenge Air, is the opportunity of a lifetime.
At a cruising altitude of 1500 feet, what may seem like a routine flight to most, becomes, for the special needs young person, an experience that excites the senses with newfound inspiration, inspiration that only the freedom of flight can offer. " I felt like a bird up there," said Joy Thomas. "It was fun and exciting, I was free. I got my wings, now I'm a Young Eagle!"
Challenge Air events are designed for ALL physically, mentally challenged and seriously ill children and young adults. Events have included children from wheelchair athletic groups, hospitals, therapy/rehab programs, Blind and Deaf associations, United Cerebral Palsy, Easter Seals Society groups, Spina Bifida Association groups, American Cancer Society groups and many, many others.
*This page is not affiliated with Challenge Air, or ChallengeAir.com
The goals and objectives for Challenge Air include to following:
a. To improve the quality of life for children/youth and families with special needs.
b. Arouse children/youth with special needs to be excited about learning and inspired about their futur
The Mission of Challenge Air for Kids & Friends is to build confidence and self-esteem in children & youth with special needs through the gift of flight.
Please join us on Saturday, April 28th at the Chattanooga Airport (Wilson Air Center) for a Fly Day! Pilots, Volunteers, Families and Agencies can register on our...
Please join us on Saturday, April 7, 2018 for a Fly Day! Pilots, Volunteers, Families, and Agencies can register on our website, challengeair.org . We look forward...
Challenge Air will be hosting a Fly Day at Peachtree City Falcon Field on Saturday, October 7, 2017. We need pilots, children with special needs, volunteers, and...