An Aviation Outreach to Youth Follows a Tuskegee Legacy

Legacy Flight Academy and Joint Base Charleston will host an event for young people on February 19 and 20.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a month-long series celebrating Black History Month through aviation: Feb. 1: African American Pioneers in Flight and Space | Feb. 4: Legacy Flying Academy | Feb. 10: Why Aren’t There More Black Pilots in the Air Force? | Feb. 11: Jesse L. Brown | Feb. 15: Meet Four African Americans Making a Difference in Aviation | Feb. 18: From “Hidden Figures” to “Artemis” | Feb. 22: CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright | Feb. 25: Cal Poly Humboldt

“This is truly a team sport,” says Lt. Col. Kenyatta Ruffin of the ever-pressing need to mentor young people into aviation.

Ruffin knows first-hand—as both the beneficiary of good mentoring and as a primary driver for the Legacy Flight Academy, an organization focused on bringing aviation opportunity to a diverse range of youth.

That said, he sees more work to accomplish: 

“I think that one, there’s not enough collaboration, and two, there’s not enough recognition of so many people doing great things,” he said in a note to FLYING.

He was talking specifically about the persistent and lifelong efforts of Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, whom he tagged as a hero and a role model in a eulogy following the pilot’s passing in January. McGee had participated in several LFA events prior to his death.

But he could also be setting the stage for the 2022 plans for Legacy Flight Academy as the U.S. emerges—hopefully—collectively out of the pandemic and into a place where the organization can carry on its mission with events and outreach that feature STEM learning, mentorship, and flying fun.

Launch Event at Charleston This Month

Joint Base Charleston will host the first major event of the year with Legacy Flight Academy, planned for Friday and Saturday, February 19 and 20.

The base hosted a similar event last year, with more than 250 airmen from all service branches participating in a string of events across a range of service installations during February 2021 called “Accelerating the Legacy—Honor the Past, Develop the Present, Promote the Future.”

Joint Base Charleston brought in more than 75 servicemembers from 12 bases to take part in professional development and outreach activities during the three-day event.

For 2022, the base hopes to step it up a notch.

Lt. Col. Kenyatta Ruffin, the 71st Operation Support Squadron commander and a T-6 instructor pilot, was awarded the Brig. Gen. Charles E. McGee Aviation Inspiration Award last February. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force]

What LFA Does

The academy, which has its primary location at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, but is hosted around the U.S., has provided more than 1,500 free orientation flights primarily to youth from underrepresented groups since 2015, with banner years taking place in 2017 and 2018, when nearly 1,000 young people were flown in a wide range of GA aircraft during those years.

Founded in 2012 by Ruffin and throttled forward when fellow airmen Kenneth “KT” Thomas and Aaron Jones joined in, LFA reaches more than 10,000 kids each year with its overall programs.

The programs take a multi-pronged approach to connect youth with opportunity:

  • The “Passion, Attitude, Responsibility” program provides outreach at career fairs, open houses and other venues.
  • The “Eyes Above the Horizon” program entails a one-day seminar that introduces students to the Tuskegee Airmen and current Black aviation professionals.

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