Ames, Iowa is considering renaming its airport after the first Black person to receive his pilot’s license and the city council is looking for public input on the plan. The name under consideration would honor James Herman Banning.
Banning’s love of flying was sparked by the Wright brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk. His family moved to Ames in 1919, and he began studying engineering at Iowa State University.
Within the next year, he took his first airplane ride, ended his studies, and decided to pursue aviation. He was denied entry into flight schools because of his race but learned to fly through private lessons at the Raymond Fisher Flying Field in Des Moines.
In 1929, Banning left Iowa to take a chief instructor job at the Bessie Coleman Aero Club aviation school for African Americans in Los Angeles. In 1932, he joined Thomas Cox Allen from Oklahoma City to become the first African Americans to fly coast-to-coast.
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