The Tuskegee Airmen National Museum is teaching the next generation of Black pilots to fly high.
Over three decades ago, the museum launched its popular Flight Academy program which is designed for youth between the ages of 14 to 19. The program–which is free–gives students hands-on experience and the flight curriculum needed to become a professional pilot, the Associated Press reported.
Under the initiative, students can take an aircraft maintenance class or attend the academy’s rocket club “where students create their own rockets” and eventually launch them, according to the school’s website. After they successfully complete each course, students are eligible for free flight training.
During an interview with AP News, 18-year-old Kyan Bovee gushed about being a part of the Flight Academy. He had never been on a plane until his neighbor– an aircraft mechanic–suggested that he take a class in the program.
“The first time in the airplane, it was something I really fell in love with,” said Bovee, who joined the academy when he was 13. “I enjoyed it. I thought it was so cool. I was actually (in) a small airplane at the controls.”
Once students are ready to soar high, they are taken to fly above the Coleman A. Young Airport in Detroit, where the Tuskegee National Museum is located. Students are taught how to take off and land in the Academy’s historic Air Force gliders.
Bovee–a community college student—wants to become an airline pilot someday.
Filled with sky-high ambition, Bovee hopes to attend Western Michigan University’s aviation program so that can fulfill his big dream.
Museum President, Brian Smith, told AP News that it has been amazing to see all of the students soar this year. Currently, there are around 30 students enrolled at the academy.
“It’s amazing to see the expressions on their faces. But first they have to get over their fear, “ Smith said. “Then it’s mentoring them to be determined to stick to the task at hand. Once they overcome the fear, they are on their way to be pilots.”
The Tuskegee Flight Academy was opened to honor the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first Black military airmen.
Formed in 1941, the Tuskegee Airmen were part of an experiment initiated by the U.S. military that allowed Black Americans enlisted in the army to train as combat pilots and support personnel during World War II. Between 1941 and 1946, roughly 1000 Black pilots were trained under the experiment.
After extensive training, the first class of Black cadets graduated from the Tuskegee Army Air Field in 1942. They went on to make a number of historic feats.
The Tuskegee Airmen helped the U.S. military to win World War II in August 1945. They flew over 15,000 missions and had one of the lowest loss records of any escort fighter group, according to the National World War II Museum.
Black pilots are underrepresented.
The Tuskegee Flight Academy gives Black students the chance to explore opportunities in the aviation field, an industry that is in need of Black pilots. According to FLYING, only 2 percent of pilots are Black.
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