Spotlight on Mike Wilonsky
"I have been involved with Challenge Air since its inception in 1993. I was influenced by Rick Amber my entire life and while I was a student at the University of Oklahoma—I choose to major in Aviation. I was working towards my commercial instrument flight instructor certificate when Rick told me about his desire to get his private pilots’ certificate. In a short period of time, Rick was taking his check rides and shopping for airplanes. As with most things Rick did—he went big and never took his foot off the gas. In a matter of months, we were meeting at local airfields to go flying together and showing me, he was a way-better pilot…and he was.
Shortly after, I remember Rick talking about this idea of flying challenged kids around in his Cessna. I thought the idea was really cool and I visited a fly-day at McKinney Airport during one of visits to my folk’s home. Rick was doing most of the flying, my Mom was selling t-shirts, my Dad and Sonny were loading kids into Rick’s airplane. It was amazing. It was such a small lash-up running on a shoestring budget—and everyone was just having the best time. It was an amazing experience—and one I will never forget it.
I have only served on this board for eight months. I recently retired from the US Marine Corps after 27 years of service and we returned by to the DFW area. My entire life has been shaped by Rick Amber and my desire to serve my country and community were influenced by him. He taught me at a young age to serve others before myself—and I’ve accepted his challenge every day since. When I was asked to join Challenge Air, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
Rick is with me forever and I am eager to pay it back to the man who gave me a purpose."