DENVER -- At a time when segregation still existed in the United States, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American airmen in the military. There are now fewer than 300 remaining, including five in Denver, and they’re making sure to leave a lasting legacy.
Two of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Franklin Macon and James Harvey, spent their Saturday at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. They signed autographs and shared their experiences with many visitors.
“When I was going to flight school there were very few people of my race that were pilots,” Macon said. “I always wanted to be a pilot.”
“We were told we did not have the mentality to fly an aircraft or operate heavy machinery,” Harvey said. “That was their assumption.”
They also spend their spare time sharing knowledge, and their motto, with youth in the Denver metro area.
“The sky is the limit for them now there are no excuses for them not to obtain whatever they want to obtain, it’s there,” Harvey said. “Be the best, that was our motto -- be the best.”
The Tuskegee Airmen’s Mile High Flight Program is in its 19th year in Denver and continues to impact so many.
“Teach them first and foremost about aviation and aerospace and the kinds of opportunities available in those industries,” United Airlines captain and program leader William Mosley said. “But more broadly to leave them each with the idea that they can do anything they want.”
For one Denver East High School student, the program has been life-changing.
“It’s just been the light at the end of my tunnel,” Kamia Bradley said. “I was going through a lot of things at home, dealing with some instability. Having the ability to learn about planes it was great to see all the opportunities I’ve had.”
Kamia has yet to graduate high school but can already check solo flight off her bucket list.
“It didn’t really hit you that you would be alone in the airplane until I actually was there by myself and pulling up to take off,” she said.
Because of the Mile High Flight Program, there are plenty other goals on Kamia’s bucket list that will also soon receive a check mark.
“I know I’ll be working for a regional or major airline,” she said. “I don’t think I would have known my opportunity in flying without this program.”
The Tuskegee Airmen’s Mile High Flight Club has already sent numerous students into aviation and aerospace careers.