They’re educating the next generation of Black pilots!
The RedTail Flight Academy (RFA) has paid homage to the original Tuskegee Airmen through its 2022 graduating class, PR Newswire reports.
The RFA is a Tuskegee Airmen-inspired program that aims to develop a pipeline for underrepresented people of color into the aviation sector. The program is based at New York’s Stewart International Airport and runs entirely on volunteers with the goal of increasing diversity in the sector. Currently, RFA is completely free of cost to interested participants.
The program just announced its graduating class of 2022 which includes Mya Coley, Calvin Frederick, Jasmine Frederick, Anthony Gilbert, Traye Jackson, and Jarious Gordon. Each graduate has received their private pilot license, advanced ground instructor certifications, and drone pilot certification. With the number of minority aviators at less than 2% in the military and commercial space, RFA hopes to increase that number and pay homage to the original Tuskegee Airmen who paved the way in the process.
“One of the things that is exciting about this program is to see the caliber of talent that comes here. The unique piece of the equation is that many of them are the exact same ages of the original Tuskegee Airmen heroes. It’s incredible to watch these students blossom throughout their time at the academy and realize the opportunities and possibilities for themselves. That’s why we do what we do,” said Anne Palmer, RFA Board Member, and daughter of a Tuskegee Airman.
RFA students come from all over the nation including St.Croix and the Virgin Islands. The entire program lasts 10 months and this year’s graduation marked the 80th anniversary of the first documented Tuskegee Airmen graduating class. Some of the graduates say they feel like they’re picking up the torch and blazing a trail in their own right. It’s important for them to continue the work of the Tuskegee Airmen and set an example for a new generation. Founder Glendon Fraser said seeing the students come through the process makes him emotional. “It all brings it back to the Tuskegee Airmen legacy,” said Fraser.
“Being able to fly any day is always a great opportunity and you can never take it for granted. If you do what you love, you never have to work a day in your life and that’s how I feel about aviation. In our own way, we are trailblazers just like the Tuskegee Airmen. We give back and motivate others to continue their aviation careers,” said Gordon.
Coley, an RFA graduate and flight instructor, said she wants others to have this same opportunity to get into the aviation field.
“I know the journey of pursuing a career in aviation is difficult…it’s emotional because growing up I was told all the time that I need to forget about my dream and that women like me, African American women, aren’t supposed to be pilots. We hold the Tuskegee Airmen history on our shoulders and that’s a big name to carry and follow up on. It means a lot to me that I’m able to continue their legacy and that I get to open the door even wider for others that want to be a part of the aviation industry,” said Coley.
To learn more about the RedTail Flight Academy and support its mission, visit the website here.
Photo Courtesy of RedTail Flight Academy