Learning Center Our Enshrinees

Cornelius Coffey

  • Born in Arkansas in 1903, Coffey was an early champion of African American aviation and inventor of the Carburetor Heater.
  • While employed as an auto mechanic, Coffey applied and was accepted at the Curtiss Wright School of Aviation for an aviation mechanics course. Upon reporting to class, he was denied entry.
  • After the threat of legal action, the school admitted Coffey. Two years later, he graduated at the top of his class.
  • Coffey would later establish his Coffey School of Aeronautics at Harlem Airport, Chicago. The school trained many of the men that would become Tuskegee Airmen.
  • Coffey was the first African American to hold a pilot’s and mechanics license and aeronautic school. His efforts led to the integration of black pilots into the American aviation industry.

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