During the Memorial Day weekend, the Black Pilots of America (BPA) organization planned a fun-filled weekend of flying competitions in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Brandon Willabus, a 12-year-old from Mill Basin, had his dream come true by flying with some of the most experienced U.S. military veteran pilots. Brandon is a member of the NY Metro BPA chapter.
Pilots from various chapters of BPA flew their planes to Pine Bluff to compete in Skyhook. “Skyhook” means hooking a cloud while flying.
SKYHOOK is an annual event and has been celebrated for over 50 years. Due to the pandemic, last year would have been marked 50 years for this annual event but since it was canceled, this year was celebrated as the historical 50-year anniversary.
According to one of the founding members of BPA, Leslie Morris, this event is a way to engage its members and celebrate camaraderie while competing against each other.
Some of the competitions included “Flour Bomb Drop,” which means that the pilot has to drop a bag of flour out of his plane within a certain area while flying above 200 feet. There was the balloon-bursting competition where pilots had to burst a helium-filled red balloon while flying. The other competition was the pilot proficiency race where pilots flew the required course and gained points based on the time they completed it and the type of plane they flew.
Additionally, children were able to go on a free plane ride after the competitions were done. Hundreds of families lined up to enjoy the experience.
Brandon is a young aviator who completed the pilot ground course with NY Metro BPA, attended Skyhook and was connected with some of the veteran pilots.
One pilot who Brandon flew with most of his time there was retired U.S. Army Veteran Colonel Palmer Sullins. Col. Sullins has over 50 years of flying experience and is a BPA Hall of Fame member. He took Brandon under his care while exposing him to some flying experience.
Brandon flew with Col. Sullins as he competed in the different races. They won third place in the pilot proficiency competition, receiving a trophy to claim the memories.
Overall, this was a great experience for Brandon since his ambition is to become a licensed pilot when he is old enough.