In a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, 15-year-old Kimberly Anyadike will make history by piloting a single-engine red-tail airplane from Compton, California to Newport News, Virginia and back. Departing on June 29 with an estimated arrival date in Newport News of July 4, Anyadike will be accompanied by safety pilot Ronell Norman, as well as Tuskegee Airman Levi Thornhill, for whom the airplane was named. Said Thornhill, “I am honored to be an inspiration to this young mind and want to provide my expertise to help her accomplish her mission.”
The 10-day trip is sponsored by Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, which provides scholarships and after-school programs for aspiring young pilots. Anyadike has been a part of the Compton Airport-based program and has been flying since she was 12. She plans to visit members of the East Coast chapter of TAM in the hope of inspiring and motivating her fellow students by showing that if she can do it, they can, too.
Anyadike’s older sister, Kelly, set a world record in 2008 by being the youngest African-American female to solo in four different fixed-wing aircraft on the same day, which was her 16th birthday. Both girls were inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American pilots who flew with distinction during World War II as the 332nd Fighter Group of the US Army Air Corps. Safety pilot Norman also is a graduate of the TAM program and currently an airline pilot.
Besides being named for Thornhill, the red-tail airplane Anyadike will fly is autographed by him and a permanent placard is mounted in the cockpit to remind TAM students that, when they fly, the Tuskegee Airmen fly with them in spirit. Each of TAM’s aircraft is named for, dedicated to and autographed by a living Tuskegee Airman.
In addition to aviation, TAM offers after-school educational programs, gang and drug intervention, life skills, safe haven and many other activities designed as an alternative to self- destructive behaviors.