We’re checking in with six Redtail Flight Academy pilots in training who began their journey in September. Meet RFA’s inaugural class of cadets, and hear about their plans: Anthony Gilbert (FL), Calvin Frederik (FL), Jarious Gordon (FL), Jasmine Frederick (FL), Mya Coley (IL), and Traye Jackson (NJ). Each has a unique story and a drive to pursue aviation as a career path.
The goal of The Redtail Flight Academy flight training program is to #DiversifytheSky by training young, minority students that otherwise could not access flight training, to expose them to all aspects of careers in aviation and aeronautics and use aviation as a developmental tool focusing on STEM, leadership development, and the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. Based at New York Stewart International Airport, the Redtail Flight Academy was born out of the vision and philanthropy of members and friends of The Major General Irene-Trowel Harris Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Redtail Flight Academy student Calvin Frederick shares that since beginning a few months ago, “I realize now that it takes an entire community coming together to take an “impossible” notion and make it a reality.” Calvin explains what he sees as the thread connecting the original Tuskegee Airmen with RFA pilots in training today. “An unrivaled sense of unity and camaraderie is something the Tuskegee Airmen have always represented and been known for. It is a true honor to personally observe and learn from the experience of our mentors who have preserved this legacy so well; I can’t say enough about the wealth and variety of information made available to us and how much there is to learn.”
Jasmine Frederick shares that her “days are filled with enjoyable, yet humbling experiences…There is always something new to be learned. Being surrounded by individuals who are so passionate about what they do…it’s contagious. I’m being taught by individuals who genuinely care about my progress and want to see me be successful…Imagining myself having to go through a different program without the constant support both interpersonally and financially, I believe it would have been very overwhelming to say the least.”
Anthony Gilbert describes what the RFA scholarship has offered him. “Growing up in St. Croix, U.S Virgin Islands, there weren’t any opportunities for me to pursue my dreams of becoming a pilot. It was tough even to get an hour or two a month of flight training. This opportunity of receiving this scholarship has made what seemed impossible possible. I am so excited to see what the future will bring to the upcoming class of the Redtails Flight Academy because these types of scholarships will make one kid’s dream a reality one person at a time.”
Jarious Gordon is grateful for the caliber of the instructors at Redtail Flight Academy. “Our instructors are willing to help us at all times of the day and are knowledgeable. The training is individualized also so that we can get one on one time and receive help on what we are struggling on.” He describes his growth in a short time at RFA “The first several months of training have been rigorous and at a rapid fast pace. I learned information that I did not think I would understand quickly before the program. We also had multiple opportunities to reach out to our mentors and help the Lee A. Archer Jr. youth flying program.”
Traye Jackson shares that this was a childhood dream. “The first months of training have been amazing for me. The program has been a blessing because I have always wanted to be a pilot since I was a kid…The entire experience has taught me to aim high with my goals and to bring my best to everyday.”
This holiday season Redtail Flight Academy is inviting everyone, especially those with a commitment to the aviation industry or a connection to youth STEM education to support RFA with a tax-deductible donation. You can make a donation to RFA here. Donations go to fund cadets’ scholarships to RFA. One year of training for one student can exceed $80,000.
At the helm of this initiative are Glendon Fraser, Carlos Rodriguez and Sheldon Richards, all experienced aviators and flight instructors. Glendon Fraser is the Director of Redtail Flight Academy and comes with 35-years of experience as captain and line check airman for United Airlines on the B777 and a passion for continuing education of young minorities interested in a career in aviation. Glen describes what they are doing to help these young students get a foothold in the aviation industry. “The natural next step is how do we bridge the gap and get these students into cockpits. We thought that starting the academy was the best way to do that, which is being able to provide opportunities for underserved and minorities within the industry.”