Tuskegee Airman and Hempstead Resident Honored By Cradle of Aviation

Renaming a street near the Cradle of Aviation museum William Wheeler Way
Renaming a street near the Cradle of Aviation museum William Wheeler Way.

The Cradle of Aviation Museum honored Hempstead Long Island resident, William M. Wheeler. This Tuskegee Airman was a 2nd Lieutenant, Combat Fighter Pilot and apart of both the 332nd Fighter Group and the 302nd Fighter Squadron. 

To provide a more permanent commemoration, a section of Lindbergh Boulevard is now “William M. Wheeler Way,” honoring a longtime Hempstead resident who as one of the acclaimed Tuskegee Airmen helped shatter the U.S. military’s ban on Black pilots. Wheeler died in 2011, but his family was on hand outside the Cradle of Aviation Museum, where Nassau County Executive Laura Curran oversaw the naming, which is near Earle Ovington Boulevard.

William Wheeler loved aviation and working with young people to enter the industry

Wheeler was one of close to a thousand black fighters pilots trained at an isolated airfield near Tuskegee, Alabama. During World War 11 the German Pilots called the Airman “Schwarze Vogelmenscen” ( Black Birdmen ) . The White American bomber crews called them The Red-tail Angels.He and his fellow aviators flew a combined 15,553 sorties 1778 missions with the 12th Tactical Air Force and the 15th Strategic Air Force. Not one bomber was lost to enemy aircraft fire while being escorted by the brave and watchful eye of the Tuskegee Airman. 

This hero and his fellow Tuskegee Airman served his country and never stopped giving back to the community of Long Island the aviation community at large long after the war. It is said that Wheeler personally influenced over 85 Long Island residents to became pilots. These were men and even woman of all races. He worked as a Methods and Procedures Analyst on the A-10 Warthog as well as Space Shuttle projects in Farmingdale Long Island. He sat on the board at the Cradle of Aviation. 

At least 4 generations of descendants of Wheeler were on hand to watch the reveal of the new William M. Wheeler Way street re-naming. This honor is one on many awards and decorations The President of the Cradle of Aviation and other distinguished community leaders were present.  

Additional Awards and Decorations were the following: 

  • Air Medal 
  • Victory Medal, WWII 
  • National Defense Service 
  • D-Day Commemorative Medal    
  •  Hon PhD Tuskegee University in 2006. 
  • The Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.( replica ) 
  • Hon. PhD from Lehman College in 2009.
  • Village of Hempstead Medal of Honor.
Tanya Austin
For more than eight years Tanya Austin has worked in the aviation field as a first responder, brand ambassador, and customer service representative to travelers world wide representing regional and global carriers such as Delta Airlines, and United Express. Tanya has worked in charter, private and commercial aviation, and has has been passionate about her work with nonprofit groups such as Black Pilots of America where she has held a board member role and is the treasurer as well as recruiter. Tanya is an active member of Women in Aviation International, Organization for Black Aerospace Professionals, and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. She contributes her spare time supporting those in need of help in these and other organizations. Tanya is an pilot and aviation business owner who is heavily invested in attaining a commercial pilot certification. Tanya has over 21 years of sales, service and management experience and has worked for both government and private sectors. Tanya attended Kaplan where she completed studies in the areas of business and real Estate. She also has an international mediators certification.

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