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Lake Charles Chapter President killed in a plane crash

Tuskegee, AL, August 16, 2019  –  Franklin J.P. Augustus, 69, died 3:20 p.m. Friday August 16, 2019 in a plane crash about a half-mile south of New Orleans Lakefront [Lake Pontchartrain’s] Airport.  The plane involved was a 1983 Pitts S-2B aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration will be investigating the crash and National Transportation Safety Board officials said there was a fire reported after the crash. The accident also took the life of his passenger, Nancy Parker, 53, WVUE-TV New Orleans news anchor while filming a news story. 

Augustus was a passionate pilot, a certified flight instructor, and a person dedicated to TAI and other causes. Augustus was president of the Lake Charles Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc.  “He was one of the most passionate people I know,” according to Maggie Thomas, TAI administrative director. “He was remarkable, and full of energy.”  Augustus was instrumental in reinvigorating the Lake Charles Chapter in 2017 by recruiting members from New Orleans and across Louisiana.  He also established a Lake Charles Chapter TAI Youth Aviation Program in conjunction with support from the City of New Orleans along with introducing flying to community youth through the Young Eagles program and the Civil Air Patrol.

Augustus grew up in a poor neighborhood in New Orleans and has been flying since he was 19.  He got hooked on aerobatics after taking advanced flight instruction in 1978.  He later developed a love for the air show business and became a collector of Pitts Special aerobatic planes. 

In a 1988 New Orleans Times-Picayune story, Augustus described himself as the only black civilian air show pilot in the country.  A 1988 Ebony article contained a photograph of Augustus with his Pitts S-2B, the plane he flew and performed “daredevil aerial maneuvers at some 500 air shows annually.” He said “I was falling all over the sky because I wasn’t used to it,” he said, of the spins, rolls and loops.  “It’s fun,” he added. “[but] when I found out that aerobatic planes can take everything we give them and not fall apart, I wanted to do it every chance I got.”

He often visited schools to speak with young students to sell young black students on aspiring to become pilots. “I want to let the young people know that if I can make it, anybody can,” he said in an article 31 years ago. Thirty years ago, Augustus described himself as the “world’s only black civilian air-show acrobatic pilot.” He said “It’s difficult to be a black in aviation because there are so few of us now. “There’s not a real color barrier, but when you walk in the door and you’re the only black person in the room, it’s difficult.”

His Lake Charles Chapter also partnered with The Drug Fighter, an organization that seeks to prevent substance abuse, youth violence, gang affiliation, and crime among youth. As part of the program, members would dress up as superheroes to try and persuade kids not to do drugs. The organization aimed to help inner city children get exposure to flying, develop math skills and computer skills that would later help them in aviation. In his inspirational talks to youth, Augustus would mention that he grew up across from a public housing complex and that one of his challenges was to overcome overtures from people who would have set him on a path to crime.  “Indeed, we teach children to fly, in practical and symbolic terms. They will now get “high” by soaring to the heights,” The Drug Fighter website says.

Franklin J.P. Augustus will be greatly missed by the National Office of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., the Lake Charles Chapter, and the City of New Orleans for his lasting contributions to our organization and his community.