By Lindsay Pierce Martin , Amanda Schwengel
The Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of African American pilots in the U.S. Armed Forces, are legendary and their achievements lauded. After training at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama they fought heroically in World War II, helped pave the way for desegregation of the military.
But the resistance faced by these young black men training to serve their nation was fierce, said Lt. Col. James Harvey, the U.S. military’s first black jet-fighter pilot to fly in Korean airspace and a member of the storied Tuskegee Airmen. It only made them better pilots.
“Everything we did had to be perfect. They were trying to wash us out,” he said. “They just made us better.”
Now, Harvey and other members of the Tuskegee Airmen serve as an inspiration for a new generation of aviation and aerospace leaders through the Mile High Flight Program, which was founded by another former Tuskegee Airman, the late Lt. Col. John Mosley, and his son Eric, who is a captain with United Airlines.
As part of the Mile High Flight Program, Mosley and other aviation experts, including Metropolitan State University of Denver aviation faculty and students, hosted a daylong workshop in March at MSU Denver’s state-of-the art aviation training facilities, where they introduced minority and other interested high-school and middle-school students to the world of flying.
“It’s always good connecting with youth about something positive,” Harvey said. “And what better way than aviation?”
Aviation remains a field that non many black youth are involved in, said Eric Mosley, a United Airlines pilot, who wants future pilots to “rise above” adversity to achieve their goals.
“Work hard, always use your brain, be ready to go, never quit, expect to win,” he said. “These are the ‘rise above’ principles that serve as the benchmark, the foundation of the Tuskegee experience.”
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