Wheels Up partners with RedTail academy to open New York branch


Wheels Up is partnering with the RedTail Flight Academy to open a flight academy at New York Stewart International Airport in New Winsor, New York to train seven minority youth from underserved communities. The aim is to develop a pipeline of diverse aviators and future aviation industry leaders.

The first Part 135 provider to partner with academy, Wheels Up will offer two internships a year to academy graduates. It also plans to donate $1,000 from every new core memberships signup to the RedTail Academy. The initiative is designed to honour the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen – the legendary African American fighter pilots of World War 2 who flew red tail fighter aircraft.

The inaugural cadets include three women and four men. The academy is aiming to increase the percentage of minority aviators from less than 2.5% represented in the military and the commercial space, to at least 4% in the next 10 years through their efforts and community engagement.

‘Next generation of aviation talent’

Chief operating officer at Wheels Up, Thomas W Bergeson (former lieutenant general) said: “We’re honoured to be the first part 135 provider to partner with the RedTail Flight Academy to help support the next generation of aviation talent. By offering two internships every year to academy graduates, we’re committing to diversifying our employee base and offering positions to underserved communities.”

Founded by the New York-based chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., RedTail Flight Academy will use aviation as a developmental tool focusing on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), leadership development and the legacy of the original Tuskegee Airmen. The 10-month curriculum will certify students between the ages of 18-21 with a FAA approved 14 CFR Part 141 multi-engine commercial pilot licence and an instrument rating.

‘Values of leadership, courage and perseverance’

Glen Fraser, director of the Lee A. Archer Jr Red Tail Youth Flying Program, said the academy would help to secure the next generation of industry leaders from underserved communities. “We’re thrilled to finally be able to welcome students to the Red Tail Flight Academy to help diversify the aviation industry and perpetuate the values of leadership, courage, and perseverance of the original airmen,” he said.

“The opportunity for our graduates to gain first-hand experience through internships at such a great company ensures they continue to learn aviation skills from industry leaders.”

Meanwhile, concerns are mounting about the availability of experienced business pilots and the availability of quality aircraft for them to fly. Rolland Vincent, president Rolland Vincent Associates, told a recent Corporate Jet Investor Town Hall online meeting: “We have just witnessed a massive retirement of talent. Where did it go? It’s aged out and it’s not coming back.”

Above: Heroes all – Tuskegee Airmen, pictured during World War 2 in front of a P-40 fighter.

Top: RedTail Flight Academy training aircraft wear red tails in honour of the Tuskegee Airmen.