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Aviation Change Makers: C. Alfred Anderson, father of Black Aviation

In recognition of Black History Month, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) acknowledges Aviation Change Maker C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson.  (Feb. 9, 1907 – April 13, 1996).

Anderson is often referred to as the "Father of Black Aviation," because he spent at least six decades training and mentoring countless Black aviators.  The following are just a few ways Anderson changed aviation:

  • For years, Anderson saved his money to take flying lessons. By age 20, he had saved enough but could not find a school that would accept a Black student. Undeterred, Anderson rather bought his own plane and diligently and successfully solicited pilots to give him lessons.
  • Anderson earned his Private Pilot Certificate at the age of 22 (1929) and three years later became the first Black person to receive a Transport License.
  • In 1934, he and a friend he had taught to fly became the first Black pilots to make a round-trip continental flight.
  • In 1939, Anderson initiated the Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program at Howard University. Soon after he was hired as the first Black pilot instructor for the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, which had the largest CPT program for Blacks.
  • The most famous photograph of "Chief" Anderson shows him smiling from the cockpit of his plane with Eleanor Roosevelt as his passenger. The photograph was taken in 1941 during Mrs. Roosevelt's fact-finding trip to Tuskegee. Roosevelt supported the cause of equal opportunity for Black Americans.

Anderson would not let anyone deter his dreams and made great strides to provide opportunity for black Americans in aviation.  Accordingly, the MAC recognizes C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson as an Aviation Change Maker.