Tuskegee aviation cadets help deliver COVID-19 PPE supplies - August 25, 2020

Courtesy of The Chicago Crusader • August 25, 2020

By Crusader Staff Report

The special delivery had arrived at the Gary/Chicago International Airport in a single engine plane. After the small plane taxied off the runway, it passed under two big water cannons before arriving at a hanger. Inside were COVID-19 personal protective equipment supplies.

On Tuesday, August 18, they were delivered with the help of cadets from the the Tuskegee NEXT youth aviation program. At the hangar at B. Coleman Aviation, a fixed based operation named after Black civil aviator Bessie Coleman, the first Black, and Native American woman to hold a pilot’s license, the group unloaded 2,500 N-95 masks and 100 bottles of hand sanitizers. The PPE will be donated to Methodist Hospital and the Gary chapter of the NAACP, which will receive 500 masks. The donations will help area frontline health care workers and community volunteers in their efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

The supplies were donated by the Will Group. Located in Wheaton, Illinois, the lighting and electrical infrastructure company serves the city of Gary.

The supplies came in two planes that made a splashy arrival at the airport as Gary Mayor Jerome Prince joined community leaders in praising organizers of the Tuskegee NEXT program for inspiring students to fly high.

Tuskegee NEXT cadet pilots Mya Coley, 21, and Jessica Vargas, 18, both from the Chicago area helped deliver the supplies. In the past two years, both cadets graduated from the program after earning their private pilot certifications.

“Today was a great opportunity to give back and support others who are helping in this situation,” Coley said.

“It’s been an amazing journey and I’m grateful to give back to the Gary community with something that I loved to do,” Vargas said.
A SINGLE ENGINE plane with PPE supplies passes under two water canons at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. (Photo by Keith Chambers)

This is not the first time the Tuskegee NEXT cadets have made a special delivery. Last month Tuskegee NEXT cadets delivered PPE to the Southern Illinois Healthcare System.

Last August, the Tuskegee NEXT cadets were featured on Good Morning America in New York City, where they had the opportunity to celebrate a successful completion of the summer flight program and meet Chance The Rapper.

The Tuskegee NEXT program provides aviation education and career opportunities for at-risk youth. It was founded six years ago by President Stephen Davis, who is chairman of the DuPage County Airport Authority in Illinois.

The Tuskegee NEXT program honors the legacy of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of Black men who served as combat pilots during World War II.

Methodist Hospitals president and CEO Matthew Doyle accepted the masks and hand sanitizer.

“This donation speaks to a partnership. We are all in this together. Our essential workers all rely on these PPE items, they know they make a difference. It will be put to great use.”

“We believe and we certainly know that these people are the future generation and they are certainly going to be our heroes not only today but certainly tomorrow,” Mayor Prince said.