'Challenge Air' Gives Hope On Ground

Human flight never ceases to amaze. Maybe it's the physics, maybe it's the freedom, maybe it's the view.

Every few months, Theron Wright, a pilot, organizes volunteer pilots to take disabled kids for the ride of their lives - a half hour in the clouds -away from doctors, walkers, and wheelchairs, CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan reports.

It's called "Challenge Air".

"You just get that sigh of relief like, alright, this is where I need to be kind of thing," Wright says.

Jason Lauchner knows just what he means. He could use a little of that up-in-the-air feeling, since the ground isn't always so kind to him.

Jason has cerebral palsy and his legs are almost useless. He was born in Ukraine nine weeks premature. Then, he was abandoned. His adopted mother says his orphanage was so poor that they actually served porridge for dinner.

"When we brought him home at the age of 2, he did not know how to chew. He had all his teeth, but he did not know how to chew food," says Linda, Jason's mother.

Now, he bites off as much as he can chew, and sometimes more, all to make a point.

"Let's get this party started," Jason says, as he zooms around on his toy motorcycle. "You better move out of the way!"

Jason says he can do anything. Why? "Because I just do," he says. And he's bound to prove it, as he takes to the air as a "Challenge Air" participant.

"The magic is when you put them in that co-pilot seat, and you let them take the controls, and you challenge them to challenge themselves, say, 'look, you're flying this airplane, what can't you do?,'" Wright says.

And Wright knows this first-hand. He is paralyzed from the waist down. An extension bar allows him to control the rudder pedals with his hand. It's a full-throttle experience for anyone who wants to push themselves.

And Jason couldn't wait for the ride. Just minutes after takeoff, he was taking over, watching disabilities disappear, at 3,000 feet.

"He's doing a great job, he's a natural," Wright says, referring to Jason.

And what he could do up there, helps make life down here, that much better for Jason.
  • Melissa McNamara

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