Founded in 1976, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the encouragement and advancement of minorities in all aviation and aerospace careers.
OBAP members encourage diversity in the industry by supporting aspiring aviation professionals through Project Aerospace, a series of scholarships, mentoring, training, and youth-focused education programs.
In 1976 Ben Thomas, a young African American pilot with Eastern Airlines, spearheaded an effort to form a permanent body to address discrimination in the airline industry. He invited thirty-seven African American pilots, representing nearly 50% of the industry total at the time, to convene at O-Hare Hilton Hotel in Chicago on September 17 and 18.
The Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), then called The Organization of Black Airline Pilots, was formed as a result of that collaborative meeting with a focus on preparing youth and young adults to realize successful careers in aviation.
In 1992, in an effort to augment the dwindling military supply of pilots, then OBAP President, Captain M. Perry Jones encouraged the U.S. Congress to appoint a panel and fund a 2-year study by the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the nation's supply, demand, and production capacity for airline pilots beyond the year 2000. As a result of the study, the U.S. Armed Forces became obligated to increase minority participation in the military, allocating positions designated solely for minority pilots.
The organization quickly became a prominent advocate and thought leader for improving conditions industry-wide. In 1986, OBAP's General Counsel, and Eastern First Officer, Eddie Hadden testified before a U.S. Congressional hearing on airline industry hiring practices. As a result, Congress began to strengthen accountability measures to monitor the performance of minority recruiting. In 1994, OBAP member and Pan Am Pilot, Ed Moon offered additional testimony before a similar session. The hearing brought increased awareness around discrimination within the airlines, encouraging swift changes to industry standards in direct partnership with minority organizations like OBAP. Additionally, the testimonies helped to increase available pilot positions and opportunities for blacks, and elevated the civil rights issue to a higher priority for government officials nationwide.
OBAP continues to recognize and strengthen opportunities for collaboration with organizations including the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. (TAI) and Black Wings in Aviation (NAI), who have served as passionate advocates for African Americans in aviation for more than 70 years.
In 1982 the organizations collaborated to provide invaluable historical accounts of African Americans in aviation for the "Black Wings" exhibit presented by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The exhibition toured nationally until early 2016.
OBAP convened joint national conventions with TAI and NAI in the 1990s. During this time, OBAP served a leading role in establishing FAA-endorsed Aerospace Career Education (ACE) Academies to introduce, educate and guide diverse students towards careers in aerospace.
In 1992, OBAP supported two ACE Academies reaching 41 students, and in 1994, co-sponsored 17 academies and reached more than 400 students. Today, OBAP's ACE Academies provide exposure to the history of aviation, fundamentals of aerodynamics, air traffic control procedures, aerospace technologies and a host of aerospace careers to more than 1,100 students in 30 cities nationwide.
In 2005, OBAP established five Centers of Excellence in Memphis, Louisville, Atlanta, Miami and Houston to provide centralized community-based resources that would ensure youth engagement from childhood to established aerospace careers. Under the leadership of many dedicated leaders within OBAP, youth are first introduced to aerospace through OBAP's Aerospace Professionals in Schools (APIS) initiative. Through this program, OBAP has long-standing relationships with various school districts throughout the country such as Shelby County School District in Memphis, TN and the Houston Independent School District, Texas Association of Partners in Education (TAPE) and the City of Houston. Once in middle school, youth have the opportunity to participate in Aerospace Career Education (ACE) Academies held each summer in partnership with many of OBAP's sponsoring and supportive partners. OBAP continues to partner with high schools and collegiate programs (currently 15) to guide young adults throughout their academic path. With the support of strategic partners like the Tuskegee Airmen Inc., National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation, and the Federal Aviation Administration, the Houston Center of Excellence alone has reached more than 70,000 youth since 2006.
- Project Aerospace
- Aerospace Professionals in School (APIS)
- Aerospace Career Education (ACE) Academy
- Solo Flight Academy (SFA)
- Luke Weathers Flight Academy (LWFA)
- Aerospace Professional Development Program (APDP)
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