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AOPA mourns death of Brig. Gen. Charles McGee

Brig. Gen. Charles McGee holds a portrait of himself as a young pilot. McGee flew 409 air combat missions across three wars: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Photo by David Tulis.

“Just like General McGee stretched boundaries his entire life, his loss is being felt far beyond aviation. He will always be known and treasured as a true inspirational American,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We are very fortunate to have known General McGee and have had him in our lives.”

McGee was best known for his leadership role with the Tuskegee Airman, the Army Air Corps’ first African-American fighter squadron. Members of that celebrated outfit, also known as the 99th Flying Training Squadron, underwent initial training in Tuskegee, Alabama, from 1941 to 1949. Aviators including McGee received initial training in Boeing PT–17 Stearmans, which laid the foundation for advancing to such fighters as the North American P–51 Mustang and Curtiss P–40 Warhawk.

During World War II, McGee completed 136 combat missions with the Tuskegee Airman, and flew an additional 100 combat missions in the Korean War and 173 combat missions in the Vietnam War, amassing a three-war total of 409 flight missions.

Baker recently led an AOPA contingent to help McGee celebrate his 102nd birthday at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. AOPA was honored to help McGee celebrate his centennial two years prior, when he flew a Cirrus Vision Jet from Frederick, Maryland, to Delaware, where he was greeted by more than 100 U.S. Air Force personnel at Dover Air Force Base.

McGee flew both legs of that flight and, according to AOPA Senior Photographer David Tulis who was on-board, “the landing was like butter. You barely knew it happened.” McGee’s birthday was celebrated at AOPA headquarters the previous day where he also flew with Baker.

AOPA is proud to honor the life and legacy of McGee through the annual Brigadier General Charles E. McGee Aviation Inspiration Award. The honor is bestowed on the aviator who best lives up to the ideals of McGee and pays it forward for generations to come. The inaugural McGee award was presented to the general himself during a virtual ceremony in February 2021. The next McGee award will be presented during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on March 23.

AOPA sends its heartfelt thoughts and prayers to McGee’s family and friends.

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