By Karen Kroeppel, Director of Sales and Marketing, Sheltair Aviation
Sheltair finds itself mourning the passing of Tuskegee Airman legend Dr. Roscoe Brown, but proud of the fact that we were able to host the last public appearance of this extraordinary American and renowned pilot during this past Memorial Day weekend at the annual Jones Beach, Long Island, N.Y. air show.
Dr. Brown passed away over the Fourth of July weekend at the age of 94, having led an extraordinary life. For those unfamiliar with his legacy, not only did he confront the Luftwaffe in the air during World War II and American segregation on the ground, he accomplished something very few fighter pilots ever achieved during that conflict.
Flying a piston powered P-51 Mustang, he downed an advanced German jet fighter, the Me262, using skill and an understanding of flight physics to nail the enemy with deflection shooting. It was a story he always enjoyed retelling to other pilots for only they would fully understand how he had to create an aerial ambush in three dimensions, given the jet’s far superior speed and firepower.
It was a remarkable feat then and remains a permanent testament to his skill as an American military aviator at a time when these Nazi jets were wreaking havoc on our B-17 and B-24 bombers during the closing years of the war. Each Me262 destroyed meant one more Allied bomber crew saved from its savage onslaught.
Dr. Brown’s biography also includes serving as a former commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. But one suspects he was most proud of his role as the president of Bronx Community College where he became one of New York’s most sought after community leaders who advocated on behalf of a strong and vibrant educational system. Thoughtful, articulate and insightful, he was an advisor to key business and political leaders alike.
During this past Memorial Day weekend, Sheltair was a proud corporate sponsor of the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Airshow at Jones Beach, some 30 miles east of Manhattan. This year the Blue Angels were the headliners,but it was Dr. Brown’s invitation to our hospitality tent that stole the show as he was introduced by air show announcer Rob Reider. Hundreds of thousands of people responded to the announcement and, while obviously frail, Dr. Brown doffed his cap in recognition of the honor and broke into a quiet smile.
We were honored to have him with us for he was the real deal and a genuine American hero who made our country better and our democracy free of a tyranny so terrible it still shocks us 75 years later. Fair skies, Dr. Brown. You have left us but your legacy is indelible.