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Legacy of aviation achievements inspire next generation

Legacy Flight Academy engages young, diverse future pilots

The Legacy Flight Academy and its well-known signature events Eyes Above the Horizon continue to introduce more diverse students to the opportunities available within the aviation industry, helping to create a new pilot population that better reflects the diversity seen throughout the world.

American Airlines First Officer Joi Schweitzer poses with a student from the Red Tail Scholarship Foundation during LFA’s Eyes Above the Horizon outreach program. Photo courtesy of Legacy Flight Academy.

This past March at Moton Field Municipal Airport in historic Tuskegee, Alabama—home of the heroic Tuskegee Airmen—more than 80 students participated in one of Legacy Flight Academy’s educational and interactive events.

It was the first LFA one-day outreach program in Tuskegee held since before the coronavirus pandemic, and sadly the first without legendary Tuskegee Airman Brig. Gen. Charles McGee in attendance. McGee died in January at the age of 102. But while McGee was not there in person, his spirit and inspiring words live on in LFA’s work and one of its leaders Kenyatta Ruffin—the 2020 recipient of AOPA’s first-ever Brigadier General Charles E. McGee Aviation Inspiration Award, U.S. Air Force F–16 fighter pilot, and current White House Fellow.

“I am so thankful for everyone who continues to support the Legacy Flight Academy in accomplishing our mission,” shared Ruffin, original LFA founder. “When I compare how LFA started ten years ago to where we are now and the impact we’re currently making, I can’t help but be motivated for the future,” Ruffin continued.

In February of this year, LFA conducted their largest program ever in Charleston, South Carolina, where they flew 114 youth in collaboration with the Air Force’s “Accelerating the Legacy,” Black History Month Aviation Heritage event.

LFA acknowledges its success is due in part to fellow industry leaders who step up to lend a helping hand. Kenneth Thomas, LFA president and founder of Eyes Above the Horizon shared how partnerships and teamwork go hand in hand to create successful LFA events. “We are so thankful to the Red Tail Scholarship Foundation and Box Aviation,” said Thomas. "The opportunity to go up for flights and tours of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site as a part of the character lesson is something I’m sure these students will never forget."

Other industry leaders also provided strategic support, include Boeing with a STEM workshop, and Aviation Supplies and Academics, Inc. with their Plotting Your Course informational brochure to help attendees understand more about potential college and career opportunities available to them now and in the future.

While flying and taking others for their first flight might be just another day in the eyes of a general aviation pilot, “You just never know the impact you will have,” said Dean Hall, Eyes Above the Horizon Tuskegee, event manager. “I met a little kid five or six years ago at an Eyes Above the Horizon event similar to this event, and his parents found me today to share that he is getting ready to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy to become a pilot. This is why we do what we do."

LFA conducts programs across the nation to showcase STEM and aerospace career opportunities to youth from underserved and underrepresented communities. LFA relies on the support of the generous donors, sponsors, and community members to make these events happen. Legacy Flight Academy held its annual Tuskegee 99 fundraiser on April 9 and is making plans for the next Eyes Above the Horizon event.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” said LFA leaders Ruffin and Thomas at the end of another successful event. One that the Tuskegee Airman of years past, including McGee were surely smiling down upon as the young attendees looked up to the skies and ahead for bright futures and careers in aviation and beyond.

Jennifer Non

Jennifer Non

Senior Manager of Media Relations and Public Affairs
AOPA Senior Manager of Media Relations and Public Affairs, Jennifer Non joined AOPA in 2017. A former traffic reporter turned media relations specialist, and native Washingtonian, she enjoys traveling and is working toward her private pilot certificate. She was recently honored by Ragan Communications and PR Daily with a Top Women in Communications Award, in the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Champion category and is also a member of the Board of Nominations for the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Topics: Student

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