A Celebration for America’s Hero
Tuskegee Airman Roscoe “Coach” Draper
He Turns 103!
Roscoe "Coach" Draper has been making aviation history for 82 years and he's not stopping as he prepares to celebrate his 103rd birthday. On May 14, 2022, starting at 12noon, many of his friends and admirers will celebrate this pioneering black aviator's milestone with a unique tribute in the roads and skies of New Jersey.
The Philadelphia-based Roscoe Draper Chapter of the Black Pilots of America (BPA) is sponsoring a Fly-By & Drive-Thru birthday celebration to honor their namesake. Coach's aerial salute will be complimented by a caravan of well-wishers, doing a drive-thru tribute past his home.Details for Event Participants
Pilots who wish to participate in the salute will convene at N51 Solberg Hunterdon Airport (weather permitting) at 11am for a mandatory briefing session before departing for the flight. Pilots may contact Derek Grier at Derek_Grier@yahoo.com or 484-431-7848 for additional information or to register.
Participants in the drive-thru salute must arrive at the parking lot of the K-Mart, 700 Broadway, Westwood, NJ by 11:30am for a pre-event safety briefing which will be held prior to departing at 12:15. The caravan of well-wishers will be accompanied by the NJ Civil Air Patrol, Color Guards, Police & Fire Departments. So, decorate your cars in Crimson & Blue in honor of Coach Draper and join the fun. Contact Margaret Bryant Renwick at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-931-9126 for more information.Details for the Press
Additional information and interviews with pilots can be arranged by contacting Derek_Grier@yahoo.com or 484-431-7848.
Cards & Gifts should be sent to:
Coach Roscoe Draper
C/O Roscoe Draper Chapter of Black Pilots of America
P.O. Box 63016
Philadelphia PA. 19154
Draper's love of aviation is only matched by his deep love of sharing it with others. After getting his pilot's license in 1940, he went on to earn his flight instructor rating in the early days of World War II. His battle against prejudice began shortly afterwards when his application to the U.S. Army Air Corps was summarily rejected.
“I was ready,” he says. “I wanted to fly.”
Draper never reapplied for military service. “It seemed they were done with me, and I was done with them,” he says.
Though denied entry as a cadet, he went on to become one of 10 black aviation instructors who served as flight instructors for the Army Air Corps “Tuskegee Experiment” from 1942 to 1945. During that time, he gave aspiring black fighter pilots their primary flight training in preparation for joining the legendary "Red Tail" all-black fighter squadrons. During that time, his inspiring teaching style won him the nickname “Coach”, a term of respect still used by his friends and admirers.
Draper also served on the academic board for the Tuskegee Institute and was honorably discharged in November 1945. After that, he worked for the US Postal Service and the FAA in several capacities, including Pilot Examiner and Accident Investigator. Throughout those years, Draper taught many students to fly, with a focus on encouraging more black men and women to seek careers as pilots.
Draper's formal employment and instruction activities kept him so busy that he ended up waiting until he was in his 70s to earn his helicopter rating. “I was born to hover,” he says. “When you’re hovering, you have to do almost nothing—and I can do almost nothing better than anyone I know.”
Draper remained an active Flight Instructor well into his nineties and his passion for flight continues to the present day, as does his passion for sharing the gift of flight with future generations of aspiring pilots of all races.
In 2007, Draper and the Tuskegee Airmen he had instructed were finally recognized for their contributions during WW II when they were awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor. True to the principles that had guided his life, Draper declined to attend the ceremony on the grounds that, as an instructor, he never endured the hardships and dangers his students had. Nevertheless, recognition for Coach Draper's humble heroism eventually arrived on his doorstep when U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer delivered the medal to his home in 2019.
Coach will be inducted into the Black Pilots of America Inaugural Hall of Fame at the fiftieth anniversary of the Black Pilots of America's annual “SKYHOOK” convention, held at Pine Bluff Regional Airport (KPBF), Pine Bluff AR. on Memorial Day Weekend.