Giving a Big Lift to At-Risk Students

Giving a Big Lift to At-Risk Students
American Airlines and American Eagle pilots and crew greet the kids.

American Airlines and American Eagle pilots and crew greet the kids.

By J Carpenter

Reporting from Texas

On Saturday, June 20, 2009, American Airlines and American Eagle hosted a seminar for at-risk youth in the Dallas and Tarrant County school systems. The goal was to share opportunities in aviation with the students and get them excited about the adventure of flight. The venue was Dallas Executive Airport (KRBD). More than 100 kids (from ages 13 to 18) flooded the terminal building to see and meet minority pilots, flight attendants and mechanics employed by the two airlines.

The weather was sunny and warm as the crowd was introduced to piloting and aircraft maintenance personnel—possible future careers for the students. Without this exposure, these disadvantaged youth may never have the opportunity to work in the aviation industry. To further encourage these next-generation leaders, American Airlines also sponsors a flight school at no cost to those who cannot afford it.

The CRP Future Pilot Flight School began in 2008 and has 17 students today, 10 in the aircraft maintenance curriculum and seven student pilots flying aircraft. The program has enrolled 140 students for the 2009-10 school year. CRP was adopted by America’s African American Employee Resource Group and soon caught the attention of American Airlines.

Participating students receive the training necessary to obtain pilot licenses or maintenance services certifications. They spend four years taking courses based in avionics, mathematics and science, which form the foundation for their careers.

David Campbell, chief operating officer for American Eagle, said, “This program will provide minority children incredible access to rewarding careers. I look forward to one day having the honor of inviting these young men and women to begin careers with American Airlines and American Eagle.”

Retired Capt. Dave Harris, the first African American pilot to fly for a commercial airline, began his career at American Airlines on Dec. 3, 1964. Harris went on to train other pilots to fly the Boeing 727 and the MD-11, sharing his love of flight. He flew B-47s and B-52s in the U.S. Air Force from 1958 to 1964.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Harris still flies his Socata TB-20 Trinidad GT between his homes in Trenton, S.C., and Nokomis, Fla.

Dr. Calvin J. Spann was a WWII combat fighter pilot in the 332nd Fighter Group, 100 Fighter Squadron, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Spann flew the North American P-51 Mustang during the U.S. campaign in North Africa and Europe.

Maj. Alejandro “Brick” House established the CRP Future Pilots Flight School in February 2008 with the purpose of teaching disadvantaged youth between eight and 18 in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. The flight school emphasizes studies in aviation maintenance, piloting principles, math and science. House helped secure valuable sponsorships, including assistance from the annual 2008 Aviation Youth Summit and American Airlines.

“American Airlines has played an integral part in sustaining the CRP Future Pilots Flight School,” House said. “We believe that our school is a perfect match for American Airlines’ volunteer efforts because we will ultimately provide them with a home-based feeder program of diverse future employees.”

House served 17 years in the U.S. Marine Corps where he was an advanced flight instructor in the T-4 Goshawk at NAS Kingsville, Texas. It was there that he held the billet as lead diversity officer for the U.S. Navy Aviation Recruitment team. House also developed a military/mentor tutoring program at a local junior high school.

Standing on an aircraft stair ramp, House welcomed the guests, dignitaries and students with opening remarks, giving them an overview of the current goals of the CRP Flight School.

House then introduced entertainer, comedian and radio host Steve Harvey. Harvey is probably best known as the star of the Warner Brothers sitcom “The Steve Harvey Show.” He was also one of the four comedians featured in the Spike Lee film “The Original Kings of Comedy.”

Harvey brought the celebrity factor to the program and emphasized the importance of planning and goal setting. “Anything is possible if you have the will and discipline in your heart,” said Harvey. He and all the speakers had the complete attention of all their audience. The kids listened intently and were very happy to be participants.

Also speaking to the group was Dallas city councilman Tennell Atkins, David Campbell, Mark Hettermann and Sonja Whitemon.

The relative quiet of the airport was shattered when an American Eagle jet made a high-speed low pass along Runway 17 directly in front of the terminal building. The crowd yelled and applauded as the jet made a steep turn to the left, circled the field and returned to land. More cheers came from the crowd as the Embraer ERJ-145 taxied to a stop and 20 African American pilots and staff from American Eagle jet filed out.

One by one, the kids met each pilot and staff member. You could see the appreciation on each student’s face—they were grateful for this demonstration of individual attention. The future aeronauts also visited the CRP Future Pilot Flight School where they sat in on an instructional flight briefing with Michael Johnson, director of operations for the CRP Future Pilot Flight School. The kids then observed a pre-flight check, taxi and take-off of a CRP?student with his instructor. Finally, they were able to participate in a taxi demonstration on the American Eagle Embraer regional jet.

The entire event was a success. The sponsors, guest celebrities and students all had a great time. This reporter overheard many conversations between the students about how they planned to make a career in aviation. There was a special bond created between the kids and their mentors. The return on the sponsors’ investment in time and dedication should prove profitable when these future aeronauts bloom to fruition.

For more information about the CRP Flight School and African American Pilots at American Airlines, contact Sonja Whitemon, director of corporate
communications, at: or 817-967-1577

Headquartered in Ft. Worth, Texas, American Airlines is the world’s largest airline with 4,000 flights serving 260 cities in over 40 countries. American Airlines, Inc., and American Eagle, Inc., are subsidiaries of AMR Corp. For more information please visit [] The publicly held corporation is traded on the New York Stock
Exchange under the symbol AMR.