The Grider Field Connection
Grider Field (KPBF) is “The Home of BPA”. Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson invited black pilots from across the hemisphere and over 100 pilots with airplanes showed up on July 4 th weekend 1969, at Grider Field, Pine Bluff, AR to discuss the formation of what would become Negro Airmen International (NAI). It was at that meeting, Dr. Jesse Hayes, President of Bronze Eagles Flying Club (BEFC), Houston, TX met Horace Noble, President of Chicago American Pilots Association (CAPA). Both organizations joined NAI July 4, 1970 at the NAI National Meeting in Nassau, Bahamas.
Chicago & Houston quickly emerged as the leaders of NAI, and Hayes and Noble envisioned and planned a competition between BEFC & CAPA. Black pilots flying 46 airplanes arrived in Yazoo City, MS, Barrier Field for the first Operation Skyhook Memorial Weekend 1971. Pleased with the results, the chapters established Operation Skyhook as an annual event and the pilots voted to return to Yazoo City in 1972.
NAI officers attended Operation Skyhook in 1972, and Chief Anderson asked if NAI could adopt Operation Skyhook as an official NAI event. The chapters agreed and the next 24 events were conducted under the NAI banner; Wichita, KA in 1973; Houston, TX in 1974; and Tuskegee, AL in 1975-1996.
NAI pilots reorganized as Black Pilots of America, Inc. in 1997, under the leadership of Leslie A. “Les” Morris, and Operation Skyhook moved to Grider Field, Pine Bluff, AR where its creators first met – The Home of BPA. Memorial Weekend 2022 marked the 50 th Operation Skyhook milestone after a 2020-2021 pause for COVID-19.