Brian Smith, of
the Tuskegee Airmen Glider Club, helped bring decommissioned Air
Force motorized glider trainers to his chapter in Detroit,
The Tuskegee Airmen Glider Club from
Detroit, Michigan, is introducing young people to aviation in a very
unique way: in a Schweizer SGM 2-37 motorized glider Air Force trainer.
The group currently owns three of them.
“We fly a lot of Young Eagles,” said
Brian Smith, Ph.D., president of Tuskegee Airmen National Museum, pilot,
and mechanic. “Our mission is to introduce inner city kids to
The club, dedicated to preserving the
memory of America’s first black military airmen, created the Tuskegee
Airmen National Museum in Detroit, and it has about 10 active volunteers
who are also instructors and help out with maintenance.
“We have taken zero-time kids and
stayed in touch with them since the ninth grade,” explained Smith. “Now
they are flying cargo in the Air National Guard. We use the motorized
gliders to introduce kids to stick and rudder.”
The club raises funds to support the
students so that they just have to cover the minimal costs of getting
The gliders were previously used to train
cadets at the Air Force Academy in the 1980s in Colorado Springs,
Colorado, but they were decommissioned in the late ’80s.
“Brian was the national president of
the Tuskegee Airmen at the time and got them for us,” explained Bill
Oddo, president of Tuskegee Airmen Glider Club and pilot.
“We flew them from Colorado Springs to
Detroit and maintain them here.”
The glider club also works with Inkster
Public School System in Detroit, which has asked the club to come in and
be a part of its program for the last three years. “We have about 30
kids in the ground program right now,” explained Smith.
The Tuskegee Airmen Glider Club also
plans on starting the Tuskegee Airmen Air Force, much like the
Commemorative Air Force, and continue to collect WWII aircraft.
“We will paint the names of Tuskegee
Airmen on them.” said Smith. “One will be Harry Stewart, who had
three kills in one mission during WWII. He was also a member of the
first Top Gun Team from the 1949 Air Force Gunnery Meet that the
Tuskegee Airmen entered and won.”
At the moment, the club is in the process
of purchasing two aircraft that have a history with the Tuskegee Airmen.
One is a Stearman PT-17, which served at Moton Field outside Tuskegee.
This field was the only primary flight facility for African-American
pilot candidates in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
The other aircraft is an AT-6 Texan, from
Tuskegee Army Airfield, the U.S. Army Air Corps base where the
candidates went to complete their advanced training after they graduated
from primary flight training at Moton.
“I’m here to serve the veterans and
honor their memory and the history of the great Tuskegee Airmen,” said
Smith. “There are fewer African-American pilots now than we had during
World War II. I have a lot of work to do!”