They say, “you can be anything in life, skies the limit,” but if you have never seen someone like you in that career is it merely nothing more than an unattainable motivational cliché? This is the exact myth non-profit aviation organization Legacy Flight Academy (LFA) aims to dispel about minorities in aviation careers. It is a fact that there is an extremely low representation of minorities in aviation career fields such as navigators, pilots and flight instructors to name a few. In the past 5 years non-whites make up only 5% of licensed commercial pilots in the US (source). Therefore LFA was created to make aviation a ‘normal’ career for underrepresented youth to strive for just as basketball and football are in America.
While interviewing LFA’s co-founder, U.S. C-130 Navigator Major Kenneth Thomas native of Brooklyn, NY, his passion for aviation radiates contagiously to those around him which makes him perfect to motivate youth to believe in themselves to achieve the highest of heights. His passion began with reading about the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army. He believes their courageous success in proving to the world that minorities can do anything including protecting their country in war should be taught to youth so they will realize that they too can become part of that elite legacy of pilots. LFA has three distinct nationwide programs for youth ages 10-19. More information and details on how to apply can be found at www.legacyflightacademy.org.
LFA has reached over 1000 youth since its founding, with hopes of mentoring 300 more in 2017. Thus far, LFA has been completely ran by volunteers and donation from other believers. If you would like help LFA with flight training academic material, sponsoring flight time (~$150/hr) and/or offsetting room, board, and transportation costs for students please visit www.legacyflightacademy.org/donate/. Donations from federal government employees and military personnel can also be made at http://www.mycfc.us (five digit code: 22818; select “Friends of CFC” as agency). Additionally, everyone can support by shopping at http://www.smile.amazon.com and select “Legacy Flight Academy” as your charity. If you are involved with or know of an organization that is committed to minority participation in aviation and wish to partner with LFA, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a stigma on pilots believing them to have a cocky attitude, in which Maj Thomas attributes this to having been up in the sky above all of humanity with no worry in sight; trusting only in yourself (not mankind) and the things you have studied to fly solo in the clouds with God as your only guide. He describes this feeling as the most liberating and inspiring experience which affords him the outlook of there being no limitations elsewhere on his life, proving boundless the heights he can achieve. Which is what he imparts to the youth he mentors, to be proud to have confidence the size of mountain although it may come off as cocky. As his mentees learn about aviation and even fly for the first time themselves, they too believe there is nothing in this world that they cannot do afterwards. LFA’s co-founder says, “we know some kids will never become pilots, but if they see us minorities as examples in this career-field we can build their confidence to know it is achievable and that is what it’s all about.”