Tuskegee Airman Rusty Burns

Tuskegee Airman “Rusty” Burns

Tuskegee Airman “Rusty” Burns was born Isham Albert Burns in New Orleans in 1925. He and his family moved to Los Angels in 1939. He attended Jordon High School where he studied aeronautics. When he turned 16, he was able to get a job at Burbank Airport. He was working with real airplanes and he loved it!

While working afternoons and weekends at the airport,  he was still in high school keeping up his studies about aircraft, theory of flight, navigation and meteorology. In 1942, he passed the federal aviation written exam.

Then, in 1943, he was inducted into the US Army Air Force. he was sent to Kessler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi as a pre-aviation cadet. After completing the first phase of learning how to fly the “Army way”, he was sent to Tuskegee, Alabama. At Tuskegee’s Moton Field, the program was primary training in the PT-17 Stearman. Then, he and his class were moved a few miles away to Tuskegee Army Air Field. There, they first trained in the Vultee BT-13 then on to the AT-6 Texan for advanced training. 

He graduated as a second lieutenant in Dec. 28, 1944 as a single-engine fighter pilot. Rusty was now flying the P-40 Warhawk and the P-47 Thunderbolt. He was assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron at Godman Field in Kentucky in July of 1945 just as the war was ending. 

Now faced with going back to civilian life, he bought and rebuilt his own airplane, an Aeronca Champ. In 1955, with that airplane, he opened Rusty’s Flying Service at Compton Airport and began giving flight instruction. He became one of the few Tuskegee Airmen to have a career in aviation. Rusty trained over five hundred students before selling his business in 1971 to become an aviation consultant. 

He then consulted for several companies in the private sector including Teledyne, Rocketdyne, Rockwell and North American Aviation. He retired in 1988 after developing a travel service program for the United States’ government.