By The Chicago Crusader
The number of legendary Tuskegee Airmen is getting smaller every year.
But members of the nation’s first Black group of military aviators who are still alive and those who have ascended into glory must be proud of what some current top Black military pilots are doing in their memory and to increase the number of Black pilots.
On March 30, 2019, Legacy Flight Academy, which is based in Oak Park, and Red Tail Scholarship Foundation presented “Eyes Above the Horizon,” a one-day aviation camp at the historic Moton Field Municipal Airport in Tuskegee, AL where the 932 Tuskegee Airmen trained from 1941 to 1946 and were dispatched for 1578 combat missions.
Hundreds of youth, ages 10 to 18, were exposed to STEM, flight introduction and mentorship. The youth toured the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, received information on aviation programs, colleges, scholarships and employment opportunities in aviation and the military. The high point of the day was when the youth got to step inside the cockpit with an FAA-certified pilot and fly an airplane.
The camp comes at a critical time in aviation as the industry is facing a major shortage in pilots as many reach the mandatory retirement age and as the demand for air travel increases. According to news sources, some 790,000 new pilots are needed in the global industry over the next 20 years. Of the estimated 160,000 pilots in the U.S., less than 2 percent are African-American. But the Legacy Flight Academy is on a mission to change this reality.
“A lot of times it is due to financial reasons, education, expectations and simply just not being exposed to aviation,” said U.S. Air Force Captain Kenneth Thomas, explaining what could be behind the low number of Black pilots.
Since the Legacy Flight Academy started five years ago, Captain Thomas said about 1,000 youth have been introduced to aviation. This year, the attendees will meet top military officials, pilots and students from the Maxwell Air Force Base and the Air Command and Staff College in Montgomery, AL. By exposing many youth to aviation, Thomas said they get to see aviation as something they can do.
The academy, Thomas said, would not be possible without several key partnerships, such as Golden Eagle Aviation, which is located at Moton Field and has been a supporter from the very beginning.
For further information or questions about the academy, visit https://www.legacyflightacademy.org, or follow the event on Facebook at facebook.com/LegacyFlightAcademy to arrange an interview, contact Jerry Thomas at jerry@jerrtyhomas pr.com, or (312) 285-5166.
This article originally appeared in the Chicago Crusader.