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Remembering Rick Amber
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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 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 traveled.

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 years.

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 Association.


"The human spirit prevails over any physical or mental obstacle.
After a day with Challenge Air, no height seems unreachable…
all it takes is desire and truly, the sky is the limit!"
- Rick Amber

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Challenge Air childrens charity non-profit