It was a Saturday filled with fun for kids, families, and aviators at the San Diego Jet Center who shared their love for all things flight.
The nonprofit organization, Challenge Air for Kids & Friends, Inc. (Challenge Air), hosted the “Fly-Day” event for children and young adults with special needs. The event was created in the hopes giving special needs children an unforgettable experience through the gift of flight.
Fly Days is a community-driven program that brings together special needs children, ground crew volunteers and volunteer pilots to provide them with the gift of flight and share their love of aviation.
Kids were escorted one by one down a red carpet and greeted by a plane. After taking some pictures in the cockpit with their co-pilots, it was time for takeoff.
San Diego Jet Center pilot and local air traffic controller Ian Lewis is a frequent flyer and often takes his family on rides through the clouds. Lewis said it's his pleasure to give back whenever he can.
"Anytime you can give an opportunity to kids that otherwise wouldn't get that opportunity, to come up and have the experience of a lifetime is memorable," Lewis said.
"A lot of what we do here in aviation, and in life in general, is based on assimilation," Lewis added. "Kids have to be able to see themselves doing something. If they can see themselves doing it, it's that much easier for them to accomplish that task when faced with the opportunity."
Challenge Air Co-Pilots agree.
One of Lewis' many passengers at the event were Michelle and her dad. More excited than afraid, Michelle didn't bat an eye when Lewis asked if she was ready to fly the plane herself.
At the end of their run, kids received a Fly Day Co-Pilot Certificate congratulating them on their freedom flight completion.
Fly Day events are hosted in 10 different cities throughout the United States. Challenge Air says their mission is to to change the attitudes of children with disabilities into attitudes of kids with capabilities.
Fly-Day is happening Saturday, March 25, at Brown Field from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The event is open to the public and is free for children and young adults with special needs.