Mya Coley is currently a pilot-in-training. This opportunity is a dream come real for this young Black woman. It also offers her the chance to break gender and racial barriers.
“It’s always been that intimidation of, for me, Black women can’t fly, or Black women won’t be able to take on this challenge. And that was the motivation for me,”CBS News interviewed Coley.
According to the US Department of Labor, 94% of commercial pilots and flight engineers are white, 3.4% are Black, 5% are Latinx and 2.2% are Asian.
Only 5.6% of all pilots are female, and less than 1% are Black women. In the United States, there are less than 150 Black female pilots who fly professionally in the skies.
Coley is an active member of RedTail Flying Academy. A non-profit organization that was inspired by the Tuskegee airmen, RedTail Flying Academy aims to diversify commercial pilots.
“The mission is to really use the Tuskegee Airmen legacy to inspire youth towards aviation and aerospace careers,”Glendon Fraser, RedTail Flying Academy
Part of RedTail Flying Academy’s goal is to develop a pipeline of aviators from underserved communities, starting with flight training, which can cost upwards of $100,000.
Flight student Traye Jackson, 21, said he always had dreams of becoming a pilot and getting his private pilot’s license. The experience was described as “amazing.” “great”He is thankful for it.
“I literally prayed for something exactly like this program,”Jackson stated.
Around 1,000 Black pilots trained at the Tuskegee institute in Alabama between 1941 and 1946. They formed the all-Black 332nd Fighter Group, lauded for escorting bombers during World War II and having one of the lowest loss records of all the escort fighter groups.
As the Tuskegee Airmen were called, the RedTails fought against segregation in the United States and Jim Crow laws overseas.
Herbert Clemson is a RedTails Flying Academy graduate. “this is not just Black history, it’s America’s history.”
“This history should not be lost because there is no one to tell the story,”Clemson claimed.
Anne Palmer, a RedTails Flight Academy board member and daughter of one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, 2nd Lt. Augustus L. Palmer, agreed, telling CBS News that “there’s nothing greater than to see what your ancestors stood for, actually honored and perpetuated.”
Both Coley, Jackson and their futures in aerospace and aviation are exciting.
”I think that they would definitely say we are following in their footsteps and really just trying to push the bar even higher each and every time,” Jackson said.