Two Memphis organizations honoring the legacy of aviation pioneers in Jackson
JACKSON, TN (WNBJ) - Organizations gather at the airport in Jackson to honor the legacy of some pioneers in aviation.
The organizations Memphis Blackhawks and Team Memphis united to celebrate the legacy of Eugene May at the McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport today.
In 1948, he received his pilots’ license in Chicago after he was unable to find anyone in the south willing to teach him to fly.
“So he had to go on these journeys. So, I think all of us have to go on a journey. I am very thankful and we are kind of hoping that young people here will be inspired to be in aviation or whatever just to get rid of the fear that may be inside of them and to dare to dream,” said Thelma Rudd, from the Memphis Blackhawks.
After purchasing a plane in 1951, May traveled all over the United States.
In 2018, he was awarded the FAA Wright Brother’s Master Pilot Award, recognizing him for 50 plus years of professional and safe flying experience.
May passed away in 2019. May’s sister was in attendance as his award was archived at the McKellar Airport.
“I used to tell him a lot slow down Gene you don’t need to drive that fast. He would say I’m thinking I am in ‘arrow-plane’, that’s what he called his airplane. I used to tease him all the time, about how he enjoyed flying and driving cars, but he loved his ‘arrow-plane’ better than he loved to eat when he was hungry," said Lorraine May-Gill, Eugene May’s sister.
The event also honored Bessie Coleman, who became the first African American woman to earn an international pilot’s license in France.
Today is the 100th anniversary of her historic endeavor.
The organization says Coleman had a determined spirit and wanted to inspire others to join the aviation field.
A flight instructor with OBAP Luke Weathers Flight Academy reflected on both honorees' contributions to the field.
“It humbles me, honestly opened my eyes more that I really need to give back to my community. It is not a lot of black faces in the aviation world, and I really see how much I can give back, just showing my face and showing that I am a true testament that it can be done,” said Daniel Flint, flight instructor, OBAP Luke Weathers Flight Academy.
Memphis Blackhawks chief pilot and his students from the academy were able to fly from Olive Branch, Mississippi to attend the event.