Years ago, Ben Thomas, a young black pilot with Eastern Airlines evaluated the state of the U.S. airline industry. By way of the landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court Case, Marlon Green had succeeded in smashing the "Color Barrier" by becoming the first black hired by a major U.S. Passenger Airline (Continental). However, the number of black pilots employed in 1976 was appallingly small. Ben was not alone in recognizing this state of affairs, but his response to the situation was special. He took it upon himself to spearhead an effort to form a permanent body to address this issue. His idea was to simply establish a representative group dedicated to advancing and enhancing the participation of blacks and other minorities in the aviation industry, especially as pilots. On September 17th and 18th of 1976, thirty-seven of the industry's approximately 80 black pilots convened at the O'Hare Hilton Hotel in Chicago. As a result of that meeting, The Organization of Black Airline Pilots (OBAP) was born.
From the outset OBAP has focused its greatest emphasis on preparing young people to realize a successful future and highlight the exciting potential available in aviation. To be certain of an aviation oriented group representing African-American and Minority concerns was neither new nor unique. Years earlier the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. (TAI) and Black Wings in Aviation had been formed with similar goals and both continue to be very active today. OBAP's unique approach to the concept was to build on the progress made in the military and general aviation arenas by expanding the cause within the airline industry.
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