In the skies above DuPage County, Illinois, near Chicago, young African-American teens are earning their wings as the next generation of African-American aviators, in the pilot program, Tuskegee NEXT 2025; named from the first generation: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.
The Tuskegee NEXT mission is to train and support 100 minority, eager but at risk Chicago area boys and girls in obtaining their pilots license by the year 2025. With the enthusiastic support of DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Tuskegee NEXT will seek to immerse participants into the aerospace industry through formal flight training programs, educational initiatives, life skills and mentorship collaborations.
Stephen Davis, chairman of the DuPage County Airport, founded the program in part to increase diversity in aviation. Only 2 percent of the country’s licensed pilots are black.
“I want the kid who may not, without this program, would not have the opportunity to excel,” Davis said. “So hopefully, if these kids want to become pilots, the opportunity will be there — or they may want to be our next senator, congressman or possibly president.”
As a boy, Davis wanted to fly but couldn’t afford it. Training for a pilot’s license can cost more than $10,000. Here, the students are earning theirs for free.
The program is named after the Tuskegee Airmen; America’s first group of African American military Aviators who overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of World War II’s most highly respected forces. they formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group and the 99th Fighter Squadron (first black flying squadron to deploy overseas) of the United States Army Air Forces; Achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for unbiased racial integration of the U.S. Military.
All Black military pilots who trained in the United States trained at Moton Field, the segregated Tuskegee Army Air Field, and were educated at Tuskegee University, located near Tuskegee, Alabama. The initial group included five Haitians from the Haitian Air Force; Alix Pasquet, Raymond Cassagnol, Pelissier Nicolas, Ludovic Audant, and Eberle Guilbaud, and one pilot from Port of Spain, Trinidad, Eugene Theodore.
“Tuskegee Airmen” also refers to all the men and women, African American and Caucasians, who were involved in the so-called “Tuskegee Experience;” the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes operational.
For more information about Tuskegee NEXT 2025, visit www.tuskegeenext.org.