Students at Philadelphia High School for Girls returning from their Thanksgiving break will have the opportunity to experience flight from a pilot’s perspective, using new Gleim flight simulators provided by the Tuskegee Airmen and Greater Philadelphia Tuskegee Airmen Chapter associate member, Burt Fogelman.
Fogelman, who became a private pilot in 1979, is a former educator who taught Social Studies, American History, World History, and Psychology for 46 years in some of the more challenged schools in Philadelphia. He has always been passionate about aviation, and is the only teacher in the Philadelphia school district “that took kids up in an airplane with parental permission.” Now 80, he continues to share his passion for aviation by giving local students a chance to practice flying.
“I have strong feelings as a former teacher,” Fogelman said about his passion for flying and teaching. “I want to make a positive difference in the lives of our kids.”
Fogelman knows that the push for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) achievement in schools across the country means costly, high-tech equipment that can help reinforce those concepts will be added to teacher wish lists, but it can be difficult to secure funding. The Tuskegee Airmen chapter adopted two schools to help out: Central High School, of which Fogelman is a 1955 graduate, and the Philadelphia School for Girls.
The Tuskegee Airmen are proponents of STEM education and run their own Youth in Aviation program, which teaches career and leadership lessons in aviation-themed programs at a local level. Fogelman withdrew money from his pension to cover the cost of three Gleim Virtual Cockpit flight simulators. Gleim provided the Gleim X-Plane Flight Training Course simulation software. Each system is valued at $3,099.95 each. “Money is nice,” Fogelman said about the purchase. “But more importantly, kids are an asset to the community, state, and world.”
Greater Philadelphia Tuskegee Airmen Chapter President Melvin Payne said the combination of Fogelman’s having taught at the high school and his associate membership in the Tuskegee Airmen lead to the idea for the donation of simulators. “He has been a real proponent of the Tuskegee Airmen, and the Philadelphia Chapter has been involved with the school system for a number of years,” Payne said. “For students to really understand aviation, you need to have simulators.”
“STEM touches every career in every way. You need to have that basic foundation in order to go forward in life and your career,” Payne added when asked why the Tuskegee Airmen focuses on the promotion of STEM education.
Payne said that in order to meet the growing demand for pilots and aviation support personnel, groups such as the Tuskegee Airmen want to raise awareness of aviation career opportunities. Beyond letting students know the opportunities exist, he wants to make sure they have the opportunity to have an aviation experience.
“We go around and do lectures about aviation and we talk about the experience that the Tuskegee Airmen went through and how they changed the world,” Payne said.
“With the three new Gleim Virtual Cockpits, the school will get to use them,” Payne said. “With the young people, they do a lot of gaming. They do a lot of things on computer. Simulation works for them, so the objective is to get them to try it, then they’ll like it, then they’ll pursue it.”
There are 52 Tuskegee Airmen Chapters in the U.S. providing programs for young people to understand aviation using simulators and other programs, and the organization awards scholarships to encourage young people to keep moving forward in their pursuit of aviation careers. In February 2017, members of the Tuskegee Airmen, including Fogelman and Vince Mallory, visited nearby Lincoln High School to recognize Black History Month and discuss careers in aviation. The organization makes a mark on schools in Philadelphia through presentations that emphasize how aviation involves more than just pilots.
They pay tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen who fought in World War II and were the first African American military pilots. The group is named after the Tuskegee, Alabama Army Airfield where they were trained, and they formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the Army Air Corps. The Tuskegee Airmen also includes support personnel, such as mechanics, navigators, crew chiefs, cooks, and nurses.
The goal of the Tuskegee Airmen according to Payne is to, “promote aviation, aeronautics, and STEM while talking about the Tuskegee Airmen legacy.”
For more information on the Tuskegee Airmen visit http://tuskegeeairmen.org/.
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