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  • Writer's pictureDon Baldwin

You Never Know Who You'll Meet at a Graduation

Updated: Feb 20

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the very first RedTail Flight Academy graduation ceremony at New York’s Stewart International Airport. Baldwin has been pleased to provide the academy with a complimentary Safety Management System for their flight training.

RedTail Flight Academy is making world-class flight training accessible to aspiring minority aviators in the spirit of the Tuskegee Airmen. The 2022 RedTail class of six graduates, completed a 10-month flight training program in which they obtained a multi-engine commercial pilot license with an instrument rating, drone pilot certification, private pilot license, and advanced ground instructor certification. Prior to attending, most of these students had little or no flight experience.

We are thrilled to have one of the graduates, Anthony Gilbert, joining our Baldwin team this summer as an intern. We look forward to working with Anthony and helping him expand his knowledge of safety management and the role it plays in safe operations.

While at the graduation ceremony I had the opportunity to meet two documented Original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTA): Lieutenant Col. Enoch Woodhouse and Second Lieutenant Herbert Thorpe. As the ceremony coincided with the 80th anniversary of the first graduating class of Tuskegee Airmen it was a great honor to have them in attendance.

What an experience! Listening to each man tell stories of their younger days and service to America gave me pause to think about what these men overcame and accomplished when they trained and served our country during WWII. They each shared stories and wise words with the graduates.

For our next generation of aviators of color, the Airmen’s story of adversity, hard work and determination meant a great deal. The demand for business aircraft pilots and maintenance technicians is predicted to be great in the next 15 to 20 years and opportunities abound for these young aviators.

The value of attending the event was far greater than I envisioned. I was able to listen, learn, and be inspired by the past and future of flight. For me, the experience was a reminder that we all have our own story to write and to tell. What an encouragement to have a small part in training these graduates as they begin their life’s chapter in aviation.

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