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Remembering the Red Tails | How newest generation of Black aviators continue legacy of Tuskegee Airmen

Posted: 5:00 PM, Mar 27, 2024
Updated: 2024-03-28 13:30:28-04

Editor's Note: Beginning March 25, 2024, KSHB 41 will air a three-part series on the Tuskegee Airmen with a focus on those who were born in Kansas and Missouri. Part one tells the story of Virgil Brashears, a second lieutenant in World War II from Kansas City, Missouri, through the words of his widow. Part two shows how the Tuskegee Airmen's legacy is honored and lives on in Kansas City. Part three highlights the new generation of Black aviators learning to fly in Kansas City as they honor the Red Tail legacy.

The KSHB 41 Remembering the Red Tails series continues in the skies with the next generation of aviators who are honoring local Tuskegee Airmen heroes.

The Tuskegee Airmen volunteered during World War II to become the first Black military airmen, often escorting U.S. white bomber pilots across enemy lines during combat. While the Tuskegee Airmen — also known as the Red Tails — served their country, they often faced discrimination as they overcame racial barriers in the armed forces.

Of the approximate 1,000 Black men who trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama during the 1940s, 49 of them originated from Kansas and Missouri.

READ MORE | Learn the stories of 49 Kansas, Missouri Tuskegee Airmen

For part three of the series, KSHB 41 landed at the Kansas City Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, where a terminal was renamed after Brigadier General Charles E. McGee, an original Tuskegee Airman who had aviation-related connections to Kansas City.

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"This was something I never would have imagined I could do," said Kenya Medlock, a Red Tail Academy instructor. "It’s just truly unreal to do it every single day — teach people how to do it, experience the freedom that is flying. It’s just awesome."

The Red Tail Academy bridges the gap in the sky to those on the ground, helping minority students become pilots — a once impossible dream.

The organization is based on the Tuskegee Airmen, a legacy honoring the first Black aviators who helped win World War II.

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"What I think about is how they had to overcome all the obstacles, and once they did that, not only were they sought after, they were requested on every mission," said Patrick Nelson, the executive director of the Red Tail Academy.

Their students are proudly flying on the wings of the Tuskegee Airmen who went before them.


"It personally means they paved the path so I could get into aviation," said Aiden Ellison, 15-year-old student at the Red Tail Academy. "I carry that with me sometimes through my struggles with aviation — if they can do it, I can do it."

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D'Avion Stokes, an 18-year-old Red Tail Academy student, credits the academy with helping him meet his goals.

"It’s an easier way for me to achieve my dream," said Stokes. "It’s really just looking out the windows and seeing everything, taking in the view."

Up in the sky, because of the original Red Tails, these young pilots know their dreams can reach new heights.

“We need to stay connected with history; history is why we’re here today," Nelson said. "Introducing a field like aviation to the youth that is normally not looking at it; imagine those individuals getting those jobs and careers, making that family dynamic change because of one decision, one connection."

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Medlock helps the academy's students navigate a path forward while remembering the past.

“It’s an honor to be a small part, and trying to live out their legacy," Medlock said.