Red Tails Scholarship Foundation provides middle, high school students with funding, mentorship
Torius Moore, 23, was one of the first recipients of the Red Tails Scholarship in 2016. Now he is an instructor with Red Tails and hopes to be test pilot and one day, an astronaut. (Image: Red Tail Scholarship Foundation) (WKMG 2021)
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Continuing the legacy and values of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Red Tail Scholarship Foundation is working to increase the number of Black pilots and aviation mechanics who make up only a fraction of professionals in the aerospace industry.
Minority pilots in both commercial and military airfields make up about 3% of all pilots, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, and Black women make up less than 1% of all U.S. airline pilots. It’s a statistic alarming to the founders of Red Tail and one they are hoping to change.
“Aviation is probably one of the most expensive hobbies you can pick up,” one of the nonprofit’s first scholars Torius Moore said. The process to becoming a pilot that can make a living flying is a multi-step process, each costing thousands of dollars.
Moore, now 23, became the first recipient of the Red Tail Scholarship Foundation in 2016. He was offered mentorship and funding towards becoming a certified pilot and instructor. Now he is a Red Tail Foundation instructor passing on what he learned to other scholars. The Tuskegee University graduate is also a part-time EMT working the nightshift in Montgomery, Alabama.
Red Tails was established to find middle and high school students who embody the values of the original Tuskegee Airman and provide the tools they need to succeed in future aerospace careers. Also known as the “Red Tails,” the Tuskegee Airman were the first African Americans trained by the military for combat operations.
“Since they did what they did, there has been no one to keep on to do what they did. And that’s what we’re trying to do. And there’s no better place to fly for Black people to fly than at the place that they did. Not only that, is for free. There’s not any other flight school in this nation is doing that for free,” Moore said. “Not only that we’re family, we all fly together. Sometimes we even live together, we definitely eat together, we celebrate together, we work hard together, we learn from each other. And that’s what makes us different. That’s what makes it important.”
Foundation scholars fly out of Moton Airfield in Alabama where the original Tuskegee Airman flew and the founders hope to help more than 990 pilots through the program, about the same number as the original Tuskegee Airman during World War II.
During an internship at UC Berkeley, Moore used stipend money to pay for flying but he wasn’t able to finish his training by the time the internship was over. Eventually, after running out of funds he was searching for options when he learned about the foundation.
Moore’s story is similar to others who want to fly but the expenses quickly add up. While many young people may want to earn their pilot’s license or pursue careers in aviation it’s not as simple as a few flying lessons.