Tuskegee Airmen history on display at airport

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 18, 2015

A refurbished T-6 airplane flies over Delta Friday after departing the Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

A refurbished T-6 airplane flies over Delta Friday after departing the Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)


MOUND, La. — Walt Cobb of Tallulah and his grandsons Jack and Jake stood on the tarmac at the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport late Saturday morning dividing their attention between a private jet that just taxied to the apron and a formation of AT-6s peeling off and making their approach to land.

“I brought my grandsons out to see the planes and to see the film,” he said, referring to the Commemorative Air Force’s Rise Above Traveling Exhibit and film on the Tuskegee Airmen, which honors and tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the U.S. Army Air Corps black fighter group in World War II. The 30-minute documentary film, he said, “Was very interesting.” His grandsons showed they appreciated the documentary with emphatic nods of their heads.

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Inside the Southern Heritage Air Museum hangar, Mark Lockwood and his wife Jackie were looking at the planes and exhibits.

“He’s been here before, but this is my first time,” Jackie said. “It’s very interesting. It’s amazing.”

The airport played host to two programs Saturday. Besides the Red Tails exhibit, it was the host field for the Warbird Formation Flying Clinic, a program where pilots can become certified to perform formation flying at air shows.

Jim Munn of Los Angeles, one of the instructors, said the certification is required by the Federal Aviation Administration if want to fly with formation teams that perform at airshows. Munn sits in the rear of one of the AT-6s and observes and gives instructions during flights.

“What he does is save lives,” one passerby said.

“There’s only a handful of pilots who are certified to fly formation outside of the military, which does it all the time,” he said.

Being an instructor, he said, takes time and patience. “This is something that can be dangerous, but when you learn how to do it and do it right it can be a lot of fun.”

Cleveland, Ohio, resident Paul Stojkov, one of the Commemorative Air Force pilots who flies the organization’s P-51C Mustang honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, said flying the plane is an honor.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would get to fly a P-51, let alone one that honors the Tuskegee Airmen,” he said. “It’s an amazing story. These men put with a lot before the war but went up and fought and risked their lives for their country, and sadly, after the war, they were spit on again.”

Jeanette Hollis, who works with the Rise Above program, said attendance had been good for the exhibit and the film.

“We had school children from Tallulah, Vicksburg and Warren Central who came this week,” she said. “We will be closed Sunday, but we’ll be here for schools Monday and Tuesday.”

She said the program stresses the values the Tuskegee Airmen had during training and World War II, “Work hard, believe in yourself, never give up and rise above.”

She said one of the visitors to the exhibit Saturday was a 97-year-old man, who looked at the P-51C.

“He told me, ‘Those men saved my life.’ ”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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