Pilot’s widow launches flight scholarship to honor husband

Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-03 19:04:52-05

It didn't take Amber long to notice the handsome grad student.

"When I first met him, he was definitely someone everybody wanted to be around," she said. "Just really outgoing and personable and just really cute, obviously."

Soon, Amber and Noah were engineers in love. They met during internships at NASA where Noah Favaregh shared with Amber his lifelong goal. He wanted to fly.

"He got really close to his solo, and then of course, we didn't have the money, because we were in grad school," she said.

The couple later found jobs in Dallas. So with a steady income, Noah finally earned his pilot's license. After they returned to Virginia and NASA, he decided to buy a small airplane.

Last summer Noah traveled to Racine, Wisconsin, signed the papers, and hired a longtime pilot to teach him the ins and outs of the small two-seater. But first Noah and the instructor, a man named Bill Gensler, hopped into Gensler's plane for a quick flight to an aviation event in Oshkosh. Hours passed without a call from Noah. At 10 p.m. and at the edge of panic, Amber sent a text.

"I just need to know you are alright. Please call me," she typed. "I literally set my phone down and the Coast Guard called right after that."

On a clear blue day, a small plane had crashed into Lake Michigan. No one yet knows why, but investigators noticed an air-traffic controller put Gensler's small plane a mile behind a heavy jet, where turbulence can spin like an invisible tornado, bringing catastrophe to planes that cross it.

"I knew they were flying over Lake Michigan," she said. "There is no reason for the Coast Guard to be calling me from Lake Michigan when Noah is not calling me back."

Soon she realized how much was on her shoulders. Their son was barely five months old. The couple also owned a yoga studio. She had to go back to work, but without Noah, she worried it would be too painful.

"It took me a while to go back to NASA," she said. "For some reason, it was the hardest place."

The last thing she needed was an airplane. She tried to cancel the contract, but it was binding, even in Noah's death. But when she stopped to think about that, it suddenly made her smile.

"This is Noah saying, 'Don't you dare. You better keep that plane. I got a really good deal on that plane.' "

And then she remembered how Noah once floated this idea ...

"Some day when we have so much money let's build a scholarship to help people fly."

So she did. In Noah's name. In just a few months the effort passed $10,000.

With help from other pilots, she got Noah's plane to Curtis Eads Flight School in Chesapeake. On a warm day last fall, she and her son saw it for the first time.

"We came down and sat in the plane, and I actually just felt really happy," she said. "It felt good, like I remembered talking to him, and he was so excited, how nice it was, and it is a really beautiful plane.

"Things like flying and aviation are just going to feel comforting," she said. "That might be the opposite of what someone might expect me to say, but it is just how it is for me."

She can't wait for the day a cash-strapped student takes flight -- maybe in his airplane -- with the scholarship Noah dreamed up.

"I feel like he is always going to be with me," she said. "All these things that I have that are really important to me and special, like the studio, and our son, just everything in my life is, in part, thanks to him. And I can be really, really grateful for the time I did have with him, and for everything he helped me build."

To find out more about Noah's Flight Scholarship, or to donate, go to