“Tuskegee, Here We Come!”

After being stuck in the Golden Isles for three days to avoid bad weather, which was really like being on a three-day beach vacation, we are now on our way back west. We set out on Wednesday with the intention of getting some miles between us and the Atlantic, but first we did a little scenic tour of the Georgia coast. We turned west over Savannah, and landed in Cochrane, Georgia, for lunch. Another airport courtesy car took us to Scott’s BBQ – we didn’t want to miss a local delicacy!

We had to wait around a few hours for the wind to die down a bit before we headed out again. Choosing the next stop, Tim pointed to an airport in Alabama on the aviation map marked “Moton Field.” He said, “What about this place?”

I said – “Moton Field – that’s Tuskegee!”

“Oh yes,” says he, “That’s the nearest town.”

“No – I mean, Moton Field is where the Tuskegee Airmen all learned to fly!”

So of course we HAD to go there.

Now, if you’ve read American Wings, the non-fiction book that Sherri L. Smith and I collaborated on, you may recall that one of our heroes, John C. Robinson, was a graduate of Tuskegee Institute. In fact, he graduated exactly 100 years ago, in May 1924. With fellow aviators Cornelius Coffey and Grover Nash, in two planes, Johnny set out to travel by air to his tenth college reunion in May of 1934 (Robert Russa Moton, whom the airfield is now named for, was president of Tuskegee at the time). There was one major mishap on the way, caused by Johnny’s own cavalier airmanship, which wrecked the plane he was flying. He continued on to Tuskegee in Nash’s plane, becoming probably the first flyer ever to land there, touching down in an oat field connected to Tuskegee’s School of Agriculture on May 22, 1934.

On May 15, 2024, Tim and I landed at Moton Field almost exactly ninety years later. Fortunately our trip has been less eventful than Johnny Robinson’s, all those years ago! We were able to visit the wonderful museum there, dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen and managed by the National Park Service. I wish I could say I planned this all along. But I didn’t, because in our initial plans last winter, we never intended to fly so far south. Kismet!

We spent the night in Auburn, Alabama, not far from Tuskegee, and our first stop on Thursday was Meridian, Mississippi. Here we had our most exciting landing, as we slotted in between the Navy “Eagles” Training Squadron 7’s T-45 jets – apparently the Meridian civilian airfield has discovered it can tempt Navy pilots to land there by offering them free food! It was offered to us, too, in quantity – hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, coffee, sweet tea, and fresh fruit. We hadn’t actually had a real meal since our pulled-pork BBQ at lunch time the day before, so we wolfed it down alongside the young Navy combat pilots who were debriefing there.

Next we headed to Vicksburg, Mississippi, but we didn’t make it that far. Rain and storms were rolling in from the west, and we diverted to Clinton, Mississippi, which is where we are now. Apparently one of its claims to fame is that Charles Lindbergh landed in a field here in 1925 because he needed to refuel, buying gas at the local bike shop, so I guess we have that in common – landing in Clinton to avoid an aviation incident!