“Checking Six” from the Cockpit of an F-16″ by 2Lt Kenyatta H. Ruffin, USAFA ’03

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

 

“Checking Six” from the Cockpit of an F-16

By: 2Lt Kenyatta H. Ruffin, USAFA ’03

The Tuskegee Airmen “experiment” began in July, 1941 when the first class of cadets began training at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. Less than one year later, General Lloyd “Fig” Newton was born in June, 1942 in South Carolina. The “Red Tailed Angels” first combat missions were flown in February, 1944. In June 1966, Colonel Fredrick Gregory flew his first combat mission in Vietnam. Finally, in July 1948, the military was “officially” desegregated when President Truman signed Executive Order Number 9981. And finally, as a result of these events and through the blood, sweat and tears of these men, on April 25, 2005 I passed my initial qualification checkride and became an official F-16 Viper pilot.

As we all know, the Tuskegee Airmen “experiment” was a huge success and directly contributed to General Newton becoming the first African-American to be a member of the USAF Thunderbirds and Colonel Gregory to be the first African-American to command the space shuttle… and me? Only God knows what the future has in store, but I can certainly say that whatever success I may have and whatever achievements I have already attained, I owe my unending gratitude and appreciation to the Tuskegee Airmen.

The brave men and women of the Tuskegee Airmen endured the hardships and overcame the obstacles they did to pave the way for you and for me. They were denied entrance into the officer’s club, even though they were commissioned United States Military Officers. They were forced to train well above and beyond the standards in place for the “regular” military. Although their success was undeniable, their recognition was often officially absent or “lost” as was the case at the 1949 National Fighter Gunnery Meet at Nellis AFB, NV.

Constantly I am reminded of the legacy that we now stand upon. I think of the great men that have gone before me and am humbled. Lee Archer, Charles Williams, Buck Newsum, John Mosley, Roy Chappell, and Chappie James. “Competence, courage, commitment, and capacity” certainly do describe these men. It is their “integrity, service, and excellence” that inspires me every day

  • Everyone in the Tuskegee Airmen – pilots, instructors, mechanics, and supply officers alike – all paved the way for integration of the military and have truly set an example for us to follow. Let us not be slow, blind, or discouraged in keeping their legacy alive. They “accepted the challenge,” served their country with distinction, and set the standard. Now, we not only owe them our admiration, we owe them the same commitment to duty that they showed. NASA astronaut Colonel Yvonne Cagle said it best, “Are you ready to put your best to the test?”
    Excerpts from the Tuskegee Airmen Induction Ceremony – speech given by Gen Hal Hornburg (some reasons why we need to either become a part of or continue being a part of the Tuskegee Airmen and other minority-empowering groups like WLC Alumni etc..)
  • Not Enough Black Aviators

    The challenge we face in the Air Force right now is we don’t have enough black aviators …

    • Last month at the 32nd Annual Tuskegee Airmen Conference, General Lester Lyles addressed this same issue

    • I agree with his concernsIn WWII we trained 992 pilots at Tuskegee, 450 of whom were sent overseas for combat assignmen

    • Today we have only 490 black aviators in our Air Force … only about 2.5 percent of total Air Force aviators … not enough, because we’re a better organization if we have sharp people from many backgrounds

    • When I was Commander of A-E-T-C a couple of years ago, briefed this same topic at CORONA … and it is still a challenge we continue to work todayThe Tuskegee Airmen help with this challenge … strong local chapters with strong outreach programs can and do make a differenceThough they may not realize it, the young men and women that get to meet and be mentored by some of the original Tuskegee Airmen are lucky
    • It is not very often that we get to interact directly with those that made history
    • Just think if we could talk to some of our leaders from the Revolutionary War .. Meeting and talking to an original Tuskegee Airmen is on that level … In a few decades, there won’t be any original Tuskegee Airmen alive …We need to take advantage of these opportunities when we can … and encourage participation in their chapters and programs
    • The Tuskegee Airmen mentor, lead and coach young men and women into our Air Force … and not just all black men and women either
    • It is our job to carry the torch and develop them into long term successes The Tuskegee Airmen did it by example … and now they motivate with just their presence Annual ConferencAt their 32nd Annual convention last month in Denver the Tuskegee Airmen focused on a couple of important issuesMoving ahead to the futureEstablishing a national youth program to inspire, motivate and assist minority youth towards military, aviation and aerospace careersI’m excited to know there are independent organizations like the Tuskegee Airmen doing so much for our Air ForceYou probably didn’t know that since 1978, the Tuskegee Airmenhave awarded over 1.7 million dollars[1] in scholarships…. that’s a lot of education Our Air Force has similar goals of looking ahead to the future and cultivating our youth I’m proud to now be a part the Tuskegee Airmen because of these shared goalsI will continue the fight as long as I wear this uniform to support our Air Force and the diverse airmen that make it the world’s best

Malber Jones

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“SOARIN ABOVE LIMITS”
By Eileen O. Daday Daily Herald Correspondent

 

Malber Jones, 16, of Chicago barely could contain his excitement. While walking on the tarmac outside Hangar 10 at Palwaukee Community Airport in Wheeling, after going up in a private plane, he felt like he was walking on air. “It was my first time on an airplane,” Jones said excitedly. “We flew all the way to the lake. He let me take the wheel and fly the plane.”

Jones was one of 25 educably mentally handicapped students from Jacqueline Vaughn Occupational High School in Chicago, who spent the day at Palwaukee as part of a project called “Challenge Air.”

The innovative flying experience is the result of a partnership between members of the Federal Aviation Authority, Signature Flight at Palwaukee, and the Young Eagles pilots who donated their time and planes – to teens with special needs.

The concept was founded in 1993 by Navy Lt. Richard Owen Amber, a top gun fighter pilot who lost the use of his legs when his landing system failed while returning from his 109th combat mission over Vietnam. He started the program to utilize the various occupational, recreational and educational opportunities through flight and inspire challenged young people to soar above their perceived limitations.

“I was sitting up front with the pilot,” added Karla Rosales, 16, of Chicago, who added that the only other time she had been on a plane was when she came to this country from El Salvador. “I really liked to see how the plane worked,” Rosales added. “I got to see how the pilot flies the plane, and I watched him push all the buttons. He let me turn off the engines.”

The students who made the trip were all mildly to moderately impaired. They attend the vocational high school to help prepare them for a job in the community. In between flights students saw displays that included models of the most popular airplanes from the last 100 years, they tried their hand on a desktop flight simulator, and they even saw a real NASA space suit, worn by Capt. Jim Lovell and other Apollo 13 astronauts during practice missions.

“We try to expose them to as many new experiences as possible,” said teacher Holly Kroger. “Every new experience helps them grow.”

Students went up with the pilots in pairs or individually for 20-minute spins. They wore headsets that allowed them to listen to the pilots as they received their instructions from the control tower.

“I never had this when I was a kid, I just used to hang around the airports and hope one of the pilots would take me for a ride,” said Mario Ponton of Chicago, who flies out of the Schaumburg Regional Airport. “It just gives me such joy to see the smiles when these kids get off the plane.” “I’ve had a great time in aviation all my life,” added pilot Russell Shavitz of Arlington Heights, who started in model airplanes before flying the real things. “I just hope these kids get bit by the bug.” In all, five pilots participated, bringing their Cessnas, Pipers and Beechcraft Bonanzas with them. Those students that flew with pilot Ken Rapier of Chicago learned about more than aviation, they learned about the Tuskegee Airmen.

Rapier has painted his Piper Warrior to resemble one of the Tuskegee Airmen’s fighter planes, complete with their distinctive logos painted on the nose and back fuselage, and with the name Tuskegee Airmen and Young Eagles printed on the wings.

“We want to pass on the legacy to the younger generation,” Rapier said. “Not just about aviation, but inspire them to do great things.”

Tammera Holmes

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

 

Young Eagles Program Success Story of Tammera L. Holmes

Tammera Holmes was introduced to the world of aviation when she was 16 years old. This happened during her participation in the Young Eagles Program. Sponsored by the Chicago “DODO” Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc.the Young Eagles Program offers introductory airplane flights to children ages 7-17. This experience changed her life. Doing anything at 8 am on a Saturday morning was the last priority of this teenager, but a determined Uncle convinced her that a free plane ride would be well worth it. That day, Tammera found her dream.

After arriving at Chicago Meigs Field, a volunteer pilot took her up on her introductory flight. While in the air, he offered her an opportunity to fly the plane and she accepted. As they came down from what would become a life-changing experience, she decided that this thing called aviation was for her.

Tammera graduated from Proviso East High School (Maywood, IL) and enrolled at Southern Illinois University (SIU, Carbondale, IL) to major in Aviation Flight and Spanish. After only 4 weeks of flight training, she was one of the first in her class of over 200 students to solo, but with mounting social challenges as well as financial costs, associated with the Flight Program, Tammera decided to transfer to another program, Aviation Management. This has proved to be one of the best decisions she has ever made.  She graduated from SIU having completed both the Spanish and Aviation Management Programs in only four and a half years. She assumed employment with the oldest and largest privately owned aviation consulting firm, Landrum & Brown where she continues to be successful. Her career as an Airport Planner has afforded her more versatility and opportunity in the Aviation Industry than she could have ever imagined. She loves her job, most of all because it keeps her intertwined in a world, that she was so casually introduced to one Saturday morning, nearly 10 years ago. She thanks the Tuskegee Airmen, Chicago “DODO” chapter for giving her the dream, one she would probably never have had without them.

Audie Posadas

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Audie Posadas – Future Pilot

My passion for flying started when I was just a little boy. My father and mother both worked at the airport in The Philippines full time. So when they would take me to work with them, I would be always around airplanes. My father worked for the air traffic control, Fed Ex, and flight dispatcher. My mother worked for Continental Airlines as a load planner specialist. And my father himself is a private pilot.

So once in a while he would take me flying with him with his friends. My first flying experience was when my father was about to take his solo and his instructor took me around once for a flight pattern. And that made up my mind that I wanted to this! I wanted to be a pilot And ever since my father would take me with him in his business trips around the country, and I had a lot of fun just going with him.

And this past summer. I attended the EAA Advanced Air Academy II sponsored by the Tuskegee Airmen for 10 days. And during those 10 days had tons of fun and also learned a lot of things that has got to do with airplanes. Theirs lodge was great, the staff was friendly, and the food is awesome. I made friends from all over the country. Also in EAA I learned the
basic structures of airplanes; How they are built, their materials, ect. They’ve taught us how to build, hands on, wing ribs, how to weld metals together, make fiber glass, a spark plug holder, and fabrics. For the classroom, I learned basic fundamentals of flight, history of flight, current events, trouble shooting, an we watched a lot of movies!

So my whole dream is to be a professional pilot for a major airline and traveling around the world! And the best thing about that is. I will enjoy what I will be doing for the rest of my life!

First Lieutenant Kenyatta H. Ruffin

October 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A Continuing Young Eagles Success Story – From Young Eagle to Fighter Pilot

(Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico June 13, 2006 – Source: EAA Young Eagles News)

“I am currently an active duty Air Force officer and fighter pilot stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., flying the F-16.”

First Lieutenant Kenyatta H. Ruffin is a pilot in the 523rd Fighter Squadron, Crusaders. The Crusaders fly the Block 30 F-16C+ and specialize in both air-to-air and precision air-to-ground employment.

“The demands of my job are high, but I love every opportunity to encourage and mentor younger people regarding aviation. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for volunteers such as those in the EAA

Young Eagles that devote their time and effort to teach others about aviation.” On Sept. 27, 1998, Lt. Ruffin received his Young Eagles flight while part of the Civil Air Patrol.

“Since I was a young child I have been interested in aviation. It began at the age of 5 after the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. At that time, I started to focus most of my efforts on becoming an astronaut. I read every book I could find on space exploration, attended Space Camp, and decided that my career path would involve being an Air Force fighter pilot.

In the summer of 1995, at the age of 14, I experienced my first major step towards accomplishing my goals by soloing a glider in the Gary Flight Academy (GFA). For the next three years, GFA would continue to play a major part in my development as I earned my private pilot license in both single engine airplanes and gliders through their program. (The GFA was supported in large part by the Organization of Black Airline Pilot and the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.).”

Excelling in math and science, Lt. Ruffin attended the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy where he became involved in the Civil Air Patrol, student government, and other activities. He received his private pilot’s license at the age of 16 and his Certified Flight Instructor’s license (glider) at 18.

“July 1, 1999 was a day that changed my life forever as I embarked on my military career. I soon learned that the Academy is not about me at  all and altered my goals by focusing on serving my country with excellence and honor. I made it my passion to develop into a leader with character, motivation, and competence.” Lt. Ruffin graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering with a minor in Military Strategic Studies.

He was also vice president for his class, the Class of 2003.

As a cadet, Lt. Ruffin was the cadet commander of the 94th Flight Trainin Squadron. He also advised the active duty officers on the operation of the squadron’s 20 gliders, “soar-for-all”, instructor upgrade, and advanced programs. He was qualified as a basic acrobatic, spin and standards/evaluation instructor pilot and has his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and commercial certificates.

“Although the possibility exists to be a career officer and astronaut, I have shifted my focus to officership and tactical aviation. I have wanted to fly the Viper (the unofficial, but more popular designation) since junior high and am simply overjoyed that this goal has come true.”

Lt. Ruffin currently has over 1200 total hours logged in civilian and military aircraft.

“I believe that what I am doing now (tactical aviation) is the pinnacle of airmanship and Young Eagles was the start to where I am.”With future goals set on being a superior officer and tactically proficient fighter pilot, Lt. Ruffin has a lot to look forward to.