FREDERICK, Md (WDVM) — Colonel Charles McGee, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, survived not one, but three wars, including World War II.
It was nearly 77-years-ago when he got his wings, and on Friday he celebrated another milestone on the eve of his birthday.
Col. McGee reported for duty inside the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) hangar at Frederick Municipal Airport and all eyes were on the airman who is celebrating his 100th birthday.
And what better way to celebrate than by taking to the skies.
“To get in air again, it’s a real thrill,” McGee said.
AOPA partnered with Vincent Mickens of Private Air Media Group, llc. to recognize the decorated pilot with a weekend of events, including an honorary flight to Dover Air Force Base.
Ahead of take-off, McGee and pilot Boni Caldeira performed their pre-flight check of a Cirrus Vision Jet, a much more modern aircraft than the PT-17 that Mcgee and fellow airforce members trained in during World War II.
“It’s an opportunity to share in where technology has taken us in the aviation realm and just to be a part of it,” McGee said of the flight.
McGee stepped into the aircraft and assumed the left seat that is reserved for the pilot.
For Caldeira, he says sitting beside the war hero who completed a record number of 409 combat missions was an honor.
“As a young man you learn about the history, as any kid would, about World War II, what [Tuskegee Airmen] did and how they broke barriers. But you don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m actually going to meet somebody who did this,’ Caldeira explained, “Just to be a part of history is, for me, a career highlight.”
Now the oldest of the nine surviving Tuskegee Airmen, McGee admitted he didn’t quite picture celebrating a century of life quite like this.
“I didn’t have this vision, but it’s wonderful for the opportunity and so I’m grateful,” he said.
The birthday celebrations continue on Saturday as McGee will again take to the skies for another flight out of the Frederick Municipal Airport.