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RedTail Flight Academy Honors Legacy of Tuskegee Airmen

Eighty years after the first Black Army Air Corps aviation cadets graduated from military flight training at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, members of the inaugural graduating class at New York’s RedTail Flight Academy vowed to begin aviation careers inspired by the original Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy. The RedTail Flight Academy (RFA) program –– based at New York Stewart International Airport and operated as a project of the Major General Irene Trowell-Harris chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and its Lee A. Archer Jr. Redtail Youth Flying Program –– was designed to create a Tuskegee Airmen-inspired pipeline to career possibilities for underrepresented people of color. The six 2022 graduates –– Mya Coley, siblings Calvin Frederick and Jasmine Frederick, Anthony Gilbert, Traye Jackson, and Jarious Gordon –– all received private pilot certificates and drone certificates, while five received instrument, commercial, and commercial multi-engine ratings. Two have received advanced ground instructor certifications and three received certified flight instructor ratings and plan to volunteer to help train the next class of RFA pilots. RFA operations manager Tanya Austin says the six inaugural graduates represent both humble beginnings and tremendous symbolism. “This is the 80th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen, whose first class graduated in 1942 with only five students,” Austin says, noting that the Tuskegee Airmen ultimately numbered almost 14,000. “They graduated five in their first class and we’re graduating six –– so we’re starting similarly small and dreaming very big.” One of Austin’s primary goals is moving the needle on some of the abysmally low statistics on representation of people of color in the aviation industry, particularly Black pilots. Though the Tuskegee Airmen broke through racial barriers in aviation 80 years ago, the passing decades have proven that many of those barriers remain in place.  “Black males represent approximately percent of military aviators and only 3.9

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