Glendon Fraser, director of the Newburgh, New York-based Lee A. Archer Jr. Redtail Youth Flying Program, accepted the keys to an appropriately red-tailed Piper Pilot 100i trainer during a ceremony at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Tuesday, July 27. Acting President and CEO of Piper Aircraft John Calcagno made the handoff in front of a vintage photograph depicting members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen being briefed for a combat mission. The red-tailed Piper, the first of two ordered in May, was parked in the background.
The aircraft will be the first flown at the Red Tail Academy, the name harking back to the nickname given the World War II-era African American pilots more formally known as the Tuskegee Airmen after the Alabama town where they received their advanced training. In combat, their P-51 Mustang fighters featured blood-red tail feathers, as will the new trainers to be used in the Red Tail Academy. Bomber crews escorted by the “Red Tails” praised the courage and skill of their escorts, often not realizing they were African Americans. Scheme Designers rendered the paint scheme for the Red Tail Academy aircraft.
A retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, himself, Fraser has also enjoyed a long career as a captain for a major airline. He said his commitment to the Academy, which will provide flight training for disadvantaged youth, comes from the resolve that “people who look like me” will be encouraged to become involved in aviation. Recognizing that the Tuskegee Airmen faced discrimination at home despite their heroism overseas, the Red Tails have been recognized as heroes on two fronts.
Also on hand for the AirVenture ceremony was Anne Palmer, daughter of one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, and also on the board of the Red Tail Academy. She joined fellow board members Richard Walsh and Don Dryer, among many others, in celebrating this next step in the program. Ed Bolen, President and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, commented on the promise the program represents for the future of all aviation.
A Red Tail fighter pilot himself, Brig. General Charles McGee, 101 years old, attended a press conference the day before where details of the Academy were revealed. He drew a sustained standing ovation from the media.
Set to begin operations in September, the Academy will sponsor promising students in pursuit of their dreams of flight. The initial Part 141 course will involve six scholarship students. In five years, that is expected to grow to 30 per year taking the 10-month course. The goal is to have cadets aged 18 to 21 receive commercial, instrument and multi-engine ratings.