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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedTuskegee Glider Club: Helping youth soar into the future
By Kristy Hemp

Brian Smith, of the Tuskegee Airmen Glider Club, helped bring decommissioned Air Force motorized glider trainers to his chapter in Detroit, Michigan.

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 aviation.”

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 their certificates.

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!”

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