Special needs kids co-pilot flights around Centennial for Challenge Air

Event is in its 8th year at Centennial Airport
Posted at 2:26 PM, Sep 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-24 13:38:19-04

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – More than 70 kids and young adults with disabilities co-piloted flights around Centennial Saturday morning.

In the 8th annual Challenge Air event, those ages, 7 to 21-years-old, were given a “special sense of independence.”

Parents in attendance said their children would not have had the opportunity to help pilot a single-engine plane otherwise.

Denver7 reporter Amanda del Castillo met a teen who survived brain cancer twice. Saturday was the first time Izaac Kinnison, 15, was on a plane after being airlifted to a hospital for brain cancer in 2012.

“Getting to see him experience this now is unreal. We just didn't know back then,” Wade Kinnison said.

Wade told Denver7 his son was first diagnosed in 2010, then relapsed the following year.

“A much better experience to say the least,” Kinnison said when asked about Saturday’s flight.

Challenge Air relies on pilots who volunteer their time and aircraft, and others who spend the day making sure it runs smoothly.

“It's my favorite weekend of the year,” pilot Mark Van Tine said. He’s volunteered at the event since it started at Centennial Airport. “To watch somebody experience it for the first time is spectacular,” he said.

GALLERY: Special needs kids take to skies for Challenge Air

After landing, Van Tine unpinned his “wings” from his shirt pocket and pinned it onto Kinnison’s shirt.

“It was... just amazing,” the 15-year-old said.

“Not every parent would do this. My parents are the best,” Kinnison said.

His parents, Lisa and Wade, were nearby, taking pictures of their co-pilot son.

“His tumor in his brain affected his memory resources. So, he's not able to remember a lot of short-term things,” Lisa said.

"This was a challenge, Challenge Air met and overcame." Kinnison said, “I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”

For more information on this annual event, visit the Challenge Air website.