Justin Biassou’s fascination with flight came at an early age from a regular drive to visit his grandmother across the Bayonne Bridge in New Jersey. He would peek his head out of the sunroof of his family’s vintage Volkwagen to catch a glimpse of the planes flying in and out of Newark international Airport.
He became hooked. “I watched airplane cartoons,” he said. “I would be sitting in my room and act as if I was flying an airplane. … I caught the bug, as they say, very, very young.”
One day, as a pre-teen, his family learned through a news program about a camp called ACE in Atlanta, which exposed young kids to aviation run by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals.
It was through those summers that he got to take flights locally and even down to the national military and aerospace museum in Pensacola, Florida. It also was how he was able to meet several members of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, African American fighter pilots who fought in World War II and who were known for their courage and battle record during a time of segregated military service.
One of those men was the late Charles W. Dryden, aka “A-Train,” whose autobiography he pored over with whom he had a chance to fly.
“At a time when the United States was at one of the greatest, most perilous times and meeting some of the most skilled fighters to be a part of the mission … despite the discrimination and despite the naysayers and prove them wrong. And having the opportunity… to understand what it was like and to hear from them … and to be encouraged by them,” he said. “For me, it was something that I definitely needed to be striving towards and be pushing myself to achieve.”
Biassou is now the regional director for the Southwest region of OBAP and a community engagement officer for the Northwest Mountain and Alaska region for the Federal Aviation Administration.
“As a Black man, it is important to have other people that look like me that are up there in the cockpit that are regularly flying, or other aerospace professionals that look like me,” he said.
“Throughout my entire time, as an aviator, from the time that I was five all the way till now, it’s recognizing that we do stand on the shoulders of those before us,” he added.
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