Rare Opportunity To Meet The Famed Tuskegee Airmen at Fantasy of Flight

POLK CITY, FL (January 20, 2014) – – For the sixth year, Fantasy of Flight, home to the World’s Greatest Aircraft Collection™, will once again welcome the nation’s first African-American Aviation Heroes, the Tuskegee Airmen, Friday, February 7th through Saturday, February 8th , 2014. The attraction will celebrate Black History Month not only by hosting a two-day limited engagement event called “They Dared to Fly” featuring several surviving Tuskegee Airmen, but also by sponsoring its fourth annual student essay contest in which students are encouraged to write about the values of leadership, excellence, advocacy and determination (LEAD) embodied by the Tuskegee pilots.

“They Dared to Fly” is scheduled to feature a Living History Talkback Session as well as Meet & Greet opportunities with three of the original Tuskegee Airmen. In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded the surviving Airmen the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Fantasy of Flight’s permanent multi-media Tuskegee Airmen exhibit and vintage aircraft collection, including the P-51C Mustang “Red Tail,” provides the perfect backdrop for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the brave men who fought America’s enemies abroad while enduring racism at home. Scheduled to appear at one or more of the symposiums are: George E. Hardy, Daniel Keel, and Charles E. McGee. All events are included in the attraction’s general admission price and are free for annual pass holders. The program begins at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 7th and at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 8th. Airmen will be available for interviews from 9 – 10 a.m. on Friday and 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

In tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, students in grades 6-12 are invited to participate in the “They Dared to Fly” essay contest. Using the principles of LEAD
(leadership, excellence, advocacy and determination), students should describe how the Tuskegee Airmen achieved success or describe how they can use these values to achieve a personal goal of their own.

Required essay length for students in grades 6-8 is 350 words; 500 words for students in grades 9-12. Entries will be judged on overall content, including spelling, grammar, punctuation, legibility and penmanship (as applicable). First place winners in each of two categories (grades 6-8 and 9-12) will take home $500; second place winners each will receive $300. The deadline for the essay contest is 5 p.m., February 28, 2014. Winners will be announced March 17, 2014. Additional rules apply. For more information, visit www.fantasyofflight.com.

The following Tuskegee Airmen are scheduled to appear:

George E. Hardy (Sarasota, FL) – George E. Hardy entered military service in July 1943, and graduated as a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen in September 1944. He was shipped overseas in February 1945 and flew twenty-one (21) combat missions over Germany. He continued his military career with service in Korea and Vietnam and retired in November 1971 with the rank of Lt. Colonel. His decorations include: the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with eleven (11) Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Commendation Medal with one (1) Oak Leaf Cluster.

Daniel Keel (Clermont, FL.) Keel was a junior studying aeronautical engineering at Northeastern University when he was drafted in 1943. Although he earned his wings as a pilot and navigator in the Tuskegee program, the war ended before Keel’s 477th Bombardment Group (Medium) saw action. He left the military in 1946 and secured a commercial pilot’s license, although a black man would not be allowed to pilot a major commercial airline for nearly 20 years. Instead, he started an electrical contracting firm and is now retired.

Charles E. McGee (Bethesda, MD) – McGee was studying engineering at the University of Illinois when he enlisted in the U.S. Army, became a part of the Tuskegee Airmen and earned his pilot’s wings in June 1943. McGee flew 137 combat missions before returning to the United States in Dec. 1944 as a Captain. He served as a pilot in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, completing more than 270 more missions. In a 30-year active service career, he achieved the highest three-war fighter mission total, 409 fighter combat missions, of any Air Force aviator. McGee retired on Jan. 1973 as a Colonel and ended his military career with 6,308 flying hours. He was recognized for his combat and military service with a number of awards including: Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Legion of Merit with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star, and numerous other awards. In 2011, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. He also served as a consultant to the 2012 George Lucas film, “Red Tails.”

“They Dared to Fly,” is included in the price of Fantasy of Flight general admission and is free for annual pass holders. General admission is $29.95 for adults and $15.95 for children, ages 6-12, plus tax. Children five and under are free. Special group and education rates are available for groups of fifteen (15) or more. For more information, contact Group Sales at 863-984-3500 ext. 237 or visit www.fantasyofflight.com .