founded Challenge Air with the belief that, "every disabled person
should see the world from a different view…out of their wheelchairs and
crutches and from the sky." This belief of Amber's came from his life
experiences. 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. He was twenty-six years old.
Mr. Amber was born
and raised in Dallas, Texas. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science
degree from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1967. His later
studies included a Master's of Science degree in Environmental Science
from the University of Texas - Dallas (1978) and Bachelor of Fine Arts
from SMU (1984). It was while working toward his later degrees that
Amber's love of flying rekindled his desire to return to the air. While
teaching math and science at the Greenhill School in Dallas (1993), he
was asked to design a curriculum for an aviation class. It was then, he
realized how much he missed flying.
He 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, Amber 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.
Amber had many
athletic interests and accomplishments. He won the USTA (U.S. Open)
National Tennis Championship, Men's Singles Division, in 1993. It was
when he was asked to teach a wheelchair tennis clinic to newly
challenged youths that his work with children really began in earnest.
He realized he was in a unique position to share his love of flying with
"kids on wheels". He 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. The endeavor was a huge success
and, based on the enthusiastic responses he got from the children and
their families, Amber became instantly committed to creating Challenge
Air so he could provide the experience of flying to children wherever he
In 1993, Amber
purchased a Cessna 177B Cardinal airplane and Challenge Air was born.
Named the "Crusader" after the jet he flew as an officer in the navy and
for his passion to bring his experiences to children, the aircraft is
equipped with large doors, a high wing and overhead pull handles. The
dual control, fixed-gear aircraft seats four passengers. It offers ideal
boarding and un-boarding capability, as well as excellent visibility.
Amber got Challenge Air's status as a nonprofit organization
established. Shortly thereafter, combining his love of aviation with his
love of children, he began to fly the over 3,500 special needs
children, who came to events, coast to coast, during the following few
In addition to his passionate commitment to Challenge Air, Amber
involved himself with several community service and professional
organizations while also serving in an advisory capacity on disability
issues to Dallas County and it's DART department. He served as a board
member at the Martin Luther King Center and with the Private Industry
Council. He also served as an associate member of the American
Therapeutic Recreation Association and the National Recreation and Parks