Black pilots celebrated and honored at BHM event in Queens

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Members of the New York Metro Black Pilots of America (NYMBPA), including young aviators, Brandon and Anaya Willabus (left), and Alexander Powell (back row, second left), and MC Dimple Willabus (fourh from left) congratulate honorees Brian Worthington (sixth from left) and Sidney Irish (seventh from left).
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

The exceptional accomplishments of Black pilots, and their dedication to inspiring youth, were celebrated at a Black History Month Dinner and Celebration at the Villa Russo, Queens on Feb. 27, hosted by the New York Metro Black Pilots of America (NYMBPA).

Eric Adams Office of the Mayor of the City of New York recognized Brian Worthington, CEO/chief pilot of Flight King NYC, with a letter that reads: “Black History Month serves as a vital reminder to celebrate the long legacy of African American excellence throughout the five boroughs and to reaffirm our collective commitment to eliminate the barriers to wellbeing that Black New Yorkers still face. Since 2014, NYMBPA has been a crucial ally in the pursuit of a fairer New York City. Under the leadership of President Brian Worthington, NYMBPA has been dedicated to its mission of creating opportunities and increasing access in the field of aviation for underprivileged youth.

“By offering education, key lectures, and training, as well as promoting and supporting aircraft ownership, NYMBPA fosters an interest in aviation and provides youth with the resources they need to step into the cockpit and soar to their highest heights. I am proud to applaud NYMBPA for all it does to forge brighter futures for all New Yorkers.”

The letter, presented by Rohan Narine, senior community liaison at Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, states, “On behalf of the City of New York, I extend my best wishes for a safe and memorable celebration.”

Rohan Narine, senior community liaison at NYC Mayor Community Affairs Unit presents a letter to Brian Worthington, CEO/pilot of Flight King NYC, on behalf of Eric Adams, mayor of New York City. Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Pastor Ellsworth Chester opened the event with a prayer and was emceed by Dimple Willabus. It  honored Worthington, a former US Navy pilot, and first officer of Delta Airlines, and highlighted the aviator’s determination, as he is changing career to realize his passion and desire to become an aeronaut.

Worthington, a former NYPD pilot, and president of NYMBPA, told an audience that included Michael Carr and Royston Charles, two other NYPD Elite Helicopter Pilots, and young aviators, he was tired of living in public housing and wanted to be out of that environment and worked diligently until he was hired at John F. Kennedy airport, to be close to airplanes.

He later joined the military, and immediately requested to be in an airplane. Unfortunately, his assignment which including from jumping from airplanes still did not meet his high expectations, so he continued to seek ways to become a pilot.

Worthington who was destined to climb to the friendly skies as a pilot after gaining experience in aviation in the National Guard, went on to graduate from flight school, and today his company, Flight King, offers flight instruction, rentals, affordable aircraft, and quality instructors. He is also a mentor to young aviators, including his son.

Against the backdrop that says “NYMBPA is providing an atmosphere for everyone to learn to fly and own airplanes,” NYS Assemblyman of District 33, Clyde Vanel, a pilot, who issued Worthington and pilots Sidney Irish, and Reynard Burns, citations, applauded Black pilots for launching the organization, and parents for encouraging their children to learn how to fly, noting that it’s amazing to get into an airplane and be separated from the ground, as well as flying solo.

“This organization is more than just aviation, this organization helps normal people with dreaming, improving, making sure your skills are better,” said Vanel.

Noting that aviation is not cheap, Vanel called on patrons to continue to support NYMBPA, by attending more meetings, and by visiting the airport, making it possible for more people to be in the field. “Let’s make the extraordinary, ordinary,” said the airplane owner.

Irish was also presented with a plaque, for his sterling contributions in aviation, and his dedication to passing on his skills to young aviators including Anaya and Brandon Willabus, Alexander Powell. The three youngsters presented him with the award.

Thanking the group, he said, “It is an honor to be associated with the young aviators who I train. I will continue to provide all that I can to make aviation accessible to you.”

Guest speaker, Reynard Burns, a Tuskegee Airman veteran, lauded the NYMBPA for providing the opportunity for him to speak of the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. He praised them for their accomplishments and commitment.

Burns, who was honored with the BHM Distinguished Award, The Eagle Award, Legacy Award, to name a few, recalled the extraordinary feat, brotherhood, training, and combat missions, undertaken by Black pilots.

Willabus, who has thrown her hat in the ring for Assembly District 59 in Brooklyn, thanked the audience for supporting the organization, and acknowledged sponsors, Romeo Hitlall owner of NMCRA, the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and Sherry’s Weakness 4 Sweetness.

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