WWII Fliers Push For More Black Commercial Aviators

The Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military pilots, say there are too few African-American pilots in the commercial aviation industry.

The first African-American military aviators African-Americans have far more opportunities than they did, but pointed out Thursday during a visit to Indiana University, that they are still underrepresented in the commercial aviation industry.

The Tuskegee Airmen, the same group of World War II pilots portrayed in the film Red Tails, are known for serving in the military while blacks were still subject to Jim Crow laws.

Lawton Wilkerson, one of the airmen, says when he got out of the Air Force, he could not find a job in commercial aviation.

“By the time they were beginning to take black pilots, I was too old, so that wiped me out of contention for any kind of job in aviation as a pilot,” he says. “I’m sure they would have let us clean the planes, but not fly it. And it’s not that different today.”

But IU freshman Lauren Blackwell says even though there are few African Americans in aviation, the story encourages her.

“It’s just an inspiration to know that I can just be in that successful lane in my life,” Blackwell says.

The airmen are participating in various events on IU’s campus Friday as well.

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