Red Tail Scholarship Foundation honors legacy of Tuskegee Airmen
Alabama has for more than a century reveled in its role in America’s aviation history.
The nation’s first civilian flight school started in Alabama. The state’s Air Force and Army bases have always been essential to the nation’s national security. Some of the most enduring advances in aviation and aerospace technology have occurred within the borders of the state.
Perhaps the Yellowhammer State’s greatest contribution to aviation history is the Tuskegee Airmen.
And it is in their honor that an Alabama non-profit is providing scholarships to African-American high school and college students that have an interest in working in the aviation industry.
The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation seeks to provide opportunities for African-American students in all areas of the aviation industry through funding, resources and mentorship.
The foundation is named after the Tuskegee Airmen who were known as the “Red Tails” because of the paint scheme on their planes.
The group desires to see increased participation of African-Americans in the industry as pilots, aeronautical engineers, airframe and power plant mechanics and avionics technicians.
Foundation co-chairman Maj. Richard Peace explained the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen is that of excellence and opportunity.
“Being the best at what you do will always create opportunity,” said Peace.
Not surprisingly, “Red Tail” success stories have begun to pile up.
When Col. William Sparrow, also a foundation co-chairman, sought the first candidate, a trusted friend and fellow pilot suggested Torius Moore.
Moore is a Tuskegee University triple-major getting degrees in aerospace engineering, physics and mathematics.
Moore has a keen awareness of the legacy left by the Tuskegee Airmen and what that means to him.
“I’m walking the same footsteps as they are,” said Moore. “So I want to continue the tradition by going even further. I know they broke a lot of barriers. I want to be one of the Tuskegee Airmen who was an astronaut.”
Scholarship recipient Jasmine Smith is a mechanical engineering major at Tuskegee University. Her interest in aviation began in an unexpected fashion.
“My love for flying started back in high school when I was accidentally placed in an aerospace class,” Smith said. “Some of my classmates and I went to work a booth showing off our school engineering program at the Blue Angels Airshow and, surprisingly enough, though I was thoroughly impressed with the Blue Angels, it was the opening act of the WWII re-enactment that amazed me.”
Smith also understands the lasting impact the Tuskegee Airmen had on aviation and American history.
“When someone says ‘Tuskegee Airmen,’ my first thought is that this is a very big legacy,” said Smith. “I want to continue the excellence by breaking boundaries in the aerospace industry not only as a female but as an African-American female and keep doing things that only help me become a better engineer and a pilot.”
In addition to carrying forth the legacy of the Red Tails, Peace and Sparrow both emphasize that careers in aviation will have their own benefits.
“There are so many great opportunities inside aviation, great careers that can sustain you for a lifetime,” said Peace.
Sparrow adds, “Aviation careers have excellent pay, they are essential to our economy and the tip of our national security spear.”
Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.