Columbus Airmen Inspire the next generation

  • Published
  • By 1LT Peyton Craven
  • 14th Flying Training Wing

Columbus Air Force Base Airmen and Alabama-based non-profit Legacy Flight Academy powered the first-ever outreach event, Eyes Above the Horizon, hosted by the Columbus-Lowndes County Airport June 11, 2023.

Eyes Above the Horizon (EAH) outreach events provide traditionally under-represented youth within the local communities the opportunity to foster and develop an interest in aviation and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) material. The event was organized by Legacy Flight Academy. EAH culminated with the students attending an orientation flight in a civilian small-engine, general-aviation aircraft to experience their first flight behind the controls.

During the event, students participated in Tuskegee Airmen themed professional development and team-building activities, a college and career fair, and experienced STEM-based activities such as mobile aircraft simulators from the 14th Flying Training Wing.

Lt. Col. Aaron Jones, 49th Fighter Training Squadron commander, volunteered to help with the planning and execution of the event.

“The objective is to take underrepresented demographics of people through the program and introduce them to aviation,” said Jones. “The collaborative effort behind the group is to expose them to opportunities they probably wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.”

The Legacy Flight Academy is inspired by the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen to encourage character development through aviation and STEM to inspire today’s youth to see themselves accomplishing goals they may not have expected.

“For most of us, the Tuskegee Airmen had a huge influence on why we started flying,” said Jones. “I remember watching the original Tuskegee Airmen movie and that feeding into my childhood dreams of flying.” 

EAH comes only weeks after Columbus-Lowndes County Airport, where the event took place, renamed its terminal in honor and memory of an original Tuskegee Airman from Columbus, Lt. Col. Alva Temple.

“To be it, is to see it,” said Jones. “No matter where we are, there are aspects of the community that just don’t see things outside of their backyards, so it’s important for us to get out there and do things like this for our community.” 

Capt. Ben Ayivorh, an instructor pilot for the 49th Fighter Training Squadron, spoke on the role that the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen played in planning similar aviation outreach events.

“Their legacy is interwoven with all of the programs, like Eyes Above the Horizon,” said Ayivorh. “They were fighting abroad in WWII, and for civil rights at home. Character development and history lessons about the Tuskegee Airmen, woven into aviation and STEM is the objective.”

EAH provides a critical opportunity to pass the love of aviation to the next generation. Not only do students get to interact with Air Force pilots, but also personnel from other career fields, and civilians, to broaden their scope of what the Air Force, and other organizations, can offer. The students attending the event also spent time with military recruiters to learn about what opportunities await them after school.

Future Eyes Above the Horizon events in Columbus will be determined by the local community and the support from the civilian and military aviation career fields.

“With our strong community partners, I think we have all the pieces there to continue this program,” said Ayivorh. “With April 28th being Alva Temple day in Columbus, what better way to keep that history going than to have an event to go with that celebration every year.”