Last month, two young black pilots, Kenny Roy and Jimmy Haywood,made flight history. Haywood, at age 11 became the youngest blackpilot to make an international flight, and 14-year-old Roy passedCanada’s flight test which resulted in him becoming theworld’s youngest black pilot licensed to fly solo. The twoyoung boys flew from California under the supervision of acertified flight instructor for their 20 hour round trip flightfrom Southern California to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Haywood flew a Cessna 172 aircraft for 10hours each way of the trip.
“I was making history,” Haywoodtold an AP reporter during a telephone interview. Roy was veryfocused during his exam, having to perform stalls, spins, andspiral dives to get his license.
Roy took his test in Vancouver because Canadaallows pilots to be licensed at the age of 14; while the age in theUnited States is 16.
“It’s exciting; it helps otherkids too, because they’re following me. I set an example forthem,” Roy told an AP reporter.
The two young pilots received their pilotingtraining in the youth aviation program at the Compton basedTomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, where they volunteered towork in exchange for lessons. The program recruits young kids towork at the Compton Woodley Airport in exchange for flightlessons.
Their three-day voyage ended with a grandhomecoming ceremony that was attended by friends, family, and thelegendary Tuskegee Airmen. Oscar York, president of the Los Angeleschapter of the Tuskegee Airmen organization explained that therecords made by the two boys should fill them up with pride andconfidence in themselves.
“Even if they don’t want to flylater in life, it shows you can do something; and they’re ontheir way to a good career, because they have heads that arealready turned to the future,” York said to an APreporter.
Setting world records in the field of aviationis nothing new to African Americans. There have been manynotable Black pilots, including Willie Beatrice Brown, the firstBlack woman officer in the Civil Air Patrol and the first Blackwoman to hold a commercial pilot’s license in the US, EugeneJ. Bullard, the first Black fighter pilot, and the legendaryTuskegee Airmen, who became one of the most highly respectedfighter groups of World War II despite segregation andprejudice.
For many years, the accomplishments of AfricanAmericans in the field of aviation, like many Black experiences inAmerica, have been isolated to small sections of books.Consequently, many individuals have no knowledge of the role thatAfrican Americans have played in the field of aviation. Thesecontributions do exist, but unfortunately only small amounts havebeen documented, which results in aviation being perceived as awhite profession in America.
“It is very uncommon that I see a Blackpilot. I think it appears to be an unattainable career choice forBlacks because they are currently unrepresented in the field; itseems as though Caucasian pilots are the norm,” said ClevetteWilliams, a student at Howard University.
Due to the fact that many individuals viewpiloting as a White profession, many organizations have formed theOrganization of Black Airline Pilots. OBAP’s goals includeincreasing minority participation in aviation, to encouragenetworking among Black pilots, and to increase the number hired byairlines. OBAP has worked diligently since its inception toincrease the Black population in the airline ranks and isdetermined to build an airline hiring pool which is both inclusiveand expansive.
According to OBAP.org. , “While progressduring the relatively short lifetime of OBAP has been noteworthy,let none of us forget that the struggle began long before. OBAP hasnot and will not rest upon these accomplishments. The organizationwill expand its horizon and continue to fine tune its operation tomeet the challenges ahead.”