Tuskegee U Preps a New
Generation for Flight
Reprinted with permission
Efforts to meet the Academy's challenge include the Aviation Education Consortium, a new partnership composed of five historically Black colleges -- Hampton University, Tennessee State University, Texas Southern University, Florida Memorial College, and Delaware State University -- along with the Organization of Black Airline Pilots, Western Michigan University, and Tuskegee Airmen Inc.
The Airmen's achievements in World War II made Tuskegee Institute a name synonymous, for many, with Blacks in flight, and today, Tuskegee University, along with the organizations listed above, stands at the forefront of the effort to diversify the aviation industry work force. One of the university's programs now off the ground is a partnership with Kansas State University, Salina (KSU) to train students to become professional pilots. For the first three summers of this joint airway science program, all students took their flight training at KSU, but since fall 2003, Tuskegee students have taken their course work at their home school.
USBE Online recently spoke with Marlon W. Johnston, head of the Aviation Department at KSU Salina; electrical engineering major Tiji Allen and engineering student Chrystal Bridges, two of the first students in the TU/KSU airway science program; and Dr. Vascar G. Harris, professor of aerospace engineering at Tuskegee University, who authored the curriculum.
USBE: What are your impressions
of the Tuskegee University partnership?
There's been a historic cooperation between our two universities. So when we were coming up on the centennial of flight, the new millennium, the idea formulated of should we try to do this in the area of aviation, specifically with Tuskegee because of the legacy of the Airmen.
The first major training accomplishment was in the summer of 2001, where Tiji Allen, Everand Woodward and Jarret Wallace came and completed the private pilot training which enabled them to be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in a single six-week period. It was a very intensive training period that included an academic portion for the ground school as well as the flight-training portion that we accomplished. These are academic courses that we present as part of our bachelor's degree-awarding program at Kansas State. Typically, there are 16 weeks in a normal semester, and we accomplish this training in five academic hours: four for the ground school and one for the flight lab in a six-week period. We were very pleased to see the students be successful in this, because we felt that that provided the evidence, the assurance, that we could undertake such [an] aggressive program that required both academic training as well as the practical, hands-on portion.
The following summer , the same three students returned, and they completed the next step: the degree program's flight training, which is becoming an instrument pilot. They completed that in six weeks. And then last summer, Tiji and Everand continued, and Krystal was added. So Krystal came to our campus and completed the private pilot course work and was successfully licensed in a six-week period while Everand and Tiji achieved their commercial pilot rating.... This is a significant milestone, because these are two young men who hadn't done any flight training previous to this program, and now they're licensed as commercial pilots.
The goal of our endeavor was to essentially allow Tuskegee to the opportunity to begin providing an Aviation oriented program in anticipation of establishing an aviation degree awarding program.... It's a natural extension of their legacy as a training ground for the Airmen of World War II, and so there was no delay. We were able to provide flight training in the summer to complement the academic training that the students were having at Tuskegee U. So it was going to be a dual degree; they would complete the degree at Kansas State during the summers, using some distance training and then maximizing the transfer credit from their primary degree program at Tuskegee with our bachelor's program at Kansas State.
USBE: Have you had any opportunity
to mentor younger people? What do folks back home think? Where do you
see yourself in five years?
USBE: How did you get into
flying, Tiji? What's next after earning an honor like cadet wing commander?
What would you say to those students coming after you?
USBE: Professor Harris, your
knowledge and experience of flight at Tuskegee goes back a long way.
You were a mentee of C. Alfred Anderson, who served as chief flight
instructor for the Tuskegee Airmen and was the first African-American
to receive a commercial pilot's certificate, in 1932. And you authored
the airway science program at Tuskegee.
USBE: It's been a long haul
since then, and much has been achieved, what drives you?
At the same time, we had attempted to start an airway science program as far back as in 1985. We've been attempting to [meet] that objective in the program since that time. So in recent months, the things that have happened are the declaration [of] Moton Field [as] a national historic site, and...federal legislation that brings the field, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the university together in what's known as the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. A part of that federal legislation included wording to the effect that there was a desire to have a living legacy for the Tuskegee Airmen in the form of a flight school [The C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson Department of Aerotechnology and Aviation Science]. So all of this said, it's been a real slow, incremental endeavor to try to get the flight school here. Hopefully, if one endures long enough you'll get it.
USBE: A graduating class
of at least 20 students is being projected per year, representing a
50 percent increase in the number of Blacks who receive aerotechnology
and aviation science degrees nationwide. Where will the students come
USBE: What's the update on
the construction at Tuskegee?
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