Cornelius Coffey
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Cornelius Coffey

Cornelius Robinson Coffey (September 6, 1902, Newport, Arkansas – March 2, 1994, Chicago, Illinois)[1] was an African American aviator. He was the first African American to create a non-university-affiliated aeronautical school in the United States. He was the first African American to hold both a pilot's and a mechanic's license.[2]


Coffey helped integrate African American pilots into the American aviation industry.[3][2] He worked with his good friend John C. Robinson. Together, they formed the Challenger Air Pilots Association.[4]

He opened the Coffey School of Aeronautics in Robbins, Illinois with his wife, Willa Brown, where many African American pilots were trained, including some of the Tuskegee Airmen.[2][5] The school moved to the former Harlem Airport, which was located at 87th Street and Harlem Avenue in the late 1930s. After World War II, he taught aeronautics at the Lewis Holy Name School of Aeronautics in Romeoville, Illinois and at Chicago's Dunbar Vocational High School.[2]

Awards and honors

He received the Dwight H. Green Trophy in 1941. He was honored with a day by the City of Chicago on July 22, 1980. He was inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 1984.[6]


The Cornelius R. Coffey Aviation Education Foundation was established at the American Airlines Maintenance Academy in Chicago in his honor to train young pilots.[2][7]

Pilots flying to Midway Airport make a course correction over Lake Calumet which is known as the Coffey Fix.[8] Coffey's Piper Tri-Pacer 135 aircraft is scheduled to be on exhibit at the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum as part of the forthcoming exhibit, Barnstormers, Wing-walkers, and Entrepreneurs: 150 Years of Aviation in Illinois.[7]


  1. ^ Dates of birth and death Archived 2017-10-15 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed August 20, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Cornelius Coffey, Early Black Aviator". Chicago Tribune.
  3. ^ Davis, Edmond. "Cornelius Coffey". Retrieved .
  4. ^ "The early days of blacks in US aviation". Air Force Magazine. US Army Air Corps. 66: 69. 1983.
  5. ^ Holway, John B. "Early pioneers". Cobblestone, ISSN 0199-5197, Feb. 1997, Vol. 18, Issue 2.
  6. ^ Gubert, Betty Kaplan, Miriam Sawyer, and Caroline M. Fannin. Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science. Westport, CT: Oryx Press, 2001, page 73; ISBN 1573562467.
  7. ^ a b "Cornelius Robinson Coffey profile". Archived from the original on January 27, 2015. Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ "Cornelius Coffey, Early Black Aviator". tribunedigital-chicagotribune.

Further reading

  • Garrett, Jim. "Coffey, Cornelius Robinson" in African American National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Lambertson, Giles. 'The Other Harlem', Air & Space Smithsonian, 2010, vol. 24, no.7, pp. 54-59.
  • Hart, Philip S. Flying Free: America's First Black Aviators. Minneapolis, Minn: Lerner Publications Co, 1992. ISBN 0585321221
  • Hunt, Rufus A. The Cofey Intersection. Chicago: J.R.D.B. Enterprises, 1982.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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