Delta Air Lines hosted the Atlanta chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen’s annual Tuskegee Airmen Aviation Career Training Program (T.A.A.C.T.) last week for 27 students at their Atlanta Headquarters.
“I had an eighth grade teacher and she piqued my interest in aviation,” said Amber Willilt, a 15-year-old Henry County High School student. “I had never really thought about it as a career or participating in it at all. [My teacher] used to give us flyers and emails and she emailed this information to me about this camp and I decided I wanted to participate. I love it. I can’t explain; I love everything about aviation the people, the community and the industry.”
Students who ranged from eighth grade to seniors in high school came from all over the metropolitan Atlanta area to participate.
“First time in the camp,” said Darryl Pridgen, a 14-year-old home schooled student.” I didn’t want to come at first, but I found it interesting.”
That interest is what retired Captain John M. Bailey, Jr., Chairman of Youth Development for the Atlanta Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, said the program is intended to create and foster.
“The goal of the program is to get a new generation in the African American and female community more into aviation,” said Bailey. “They don’t have to be pilots. It’s a career program exposing them to all careers in aviation, military, corporate and airlines.”
Once the program is over Bailey said students are still monitored by the Atlanta Chapter Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. on their improvement.
“Once they are in their careers the monitoring will probably stop,” he said.
The students started the day in pilot simulators inside Delta headquarters. The simulators allowed each student to get the feeling of taking off and landing a plane during day or night along with various weather conditions.
“It’s the most realistic thing you can ever imagine other than going into an actual aircraft,” said Chris Keyes, a flight operations intern for Delta. “They are not taking away from revenue passengers or paying passengers.”
Pilot Jared Hodge showed the students a part of Delta that is rarely seen by the public, the Operations and Customer Center (OCC) where Delta is operated. The OCC is the hub of Delta flights where employees check weather patterns and monitor domestic and international flights in the air.
In addition to the flight simulators, the students also got to see the Delta social media lab, which was created three years ago. The media lab is where employees monitor and respond to Delta’s various social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook.
Around noon, students visited Delta’s in-flight training department and were shown how flight attendants are trained to work on Delta flights in an emergency by in-flight training instructor Sarah Sageleon.
“In-flight training teaches the students how to put out fires, evacuate into a raft or pool ,scenario training or situation training and how to handle it as a crew,” said Sageleon. “Anything that can happen on the ground can happen 35,000 feet in the air.”
The program continued through the week and allowed students to operate an actual 172-A model aircraft and meet current Tuskegee Airmen as well.
“We want to continue to legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen after the last one is gone,” said Bailey. “There is no rush, it’s always best to be prepared.”
(Photos: Hakim Sabur)