The Tuskegee Airmen—the first Black flying unit in the U.S. military—played a pivotal role in diversifying aviation. The legacies of these barrier-breaking men live on through a New York-based flight school. RedTail Flight Academy is paying homage to the resilient veterans by empowering the next generation of aviators of color.
Founded in 2021, the school—which operates at the New York Stewart International Airport—was designed to introduce students from underserved communities to the world of aerospace and the array of career paths that exist within the STEM industry. The academy hopes to solve the lack of representation within aviation and the impending pilot shortage. Research shows only 3.4 percent of flight engineers and aircraft pilots are Black. The program also uses community engagement as an avenue to highlight the contributions of the Tuskegee Airmen, focusing on how they led the charge for racial equality within the military.
Through training programs, mentorship, scholarships and career opportunities, the RedTail Flight Academy is on a mission to cultivate a pipeline of young Black pilots who will define the future of aerospace. Glendon Fraser, the founder of the flight school, believes changing the narrative starts with addressing the barriers to education and exposure. “I think we’re making a change,” he told CBS News. “There is a problem with awareness within the inner city and the urban areas to know that this particular career is a possibility.”
“There’s nothing greater than to see what your ancestors actually honored and perpetuated,” added Anne Palmer, daughter of Tuskegee Airmen member second lieutenant Augustus L. Palmer and RedTail Flight Academy board member.
The school hopes to serve as a model for other existing and future Tuskegee Airmen Inc. regional flight academies.
The creation of the RedTail Flight Academy comes 14 years after the Tuskegee Airmen—who operated over 15,000 individual missions during World War II in Europe and North Africa—were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for their bravery.