Lt. Col. Robert “Bob” Ashby (ret.)

Robert Ashby, a Tuskegee airman and first black captain for Frontier Airlines was born July 17, 1926 in Yemassee, S.C. After his father passed away, Bob and his mother Lillian Ashby, moved to Jersey City, N.J., along with his brother, James and sister, Elizabeth. 

As a student in high school, Bob began to investigate pilot training after hearing of the experiences of black pilots in the 99th. Bob enlisted in the Army Air Corps at age seventeen as a candidate for the Aviation Cadet program. He was called to active duty in August 1944 after graduating from Ferris High School in Jersey City, N.J. Later, Bob received college training with the University of Maryland and U.C.L.A through the 'on base' College Program. Bob was assigned to Keesler Field, Mississippi for basic training and testing for entry into the Aviation Cadet program. In December 1944 Ashby was sent to Tuskegee, Alabama to begin cadet raining. 

As a cadet he flew the Stearman PT-17, AT-6, and the B-25. Ashby graduated as a second lieutenant with the Tuskegee Class of 45-H on November 20, 1945. Ashby was assigned to Japan as a part of the U.S. occupying force. On his arrival in Japan, Ashby found he was assigned to two white flying outfits, neither of which would accept him in their unit because he was black and the Army was segregated. 

Second Lieutenant Ashby was removed from pilot status and assigned to a black company in the Quartermaster Department in Tokyo, Japan. In May 1949, Ashby was assigned to the black unit at Lockbourne Air Field, Ohio where he was reinstated to flying status. President Harry S. Truman integrated the armed forces, and Ashby was assigned to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in August 1949 for a short tour. Later, he was assigned to a Reserve Troop Carrier Wing at Cleveland Municipal Airport. Here he trained in the T-6 and C-46 aircraft. In 1952, Ashby flew B-26's for a year of combat in Korea while stationed at K-8. In 1956, in England, Ashby flew the T-33, B-45 and B-66. He trained in the B-47 aircraft and became a B-47 instructor. Reaching the status of Lieutenant Colonel, Robert Ashby retired honorably from the U.S. Air Force in July 1965, after 21 years of fighting racial problems as well as the enemies of America.

Robert "Bob" Ashby started his commercial aviation career in 1965 with United Airlines as one of their flight operations instructors. He taught in the classroom the airplane simulator for the 727 aircraft. In 1968, Ashby helped to write the training program for the 747 aircraft. His group wrote the curriculum, formulated the objectives, wrote the manuals and instructed the crews in the classroom subjects, simulator and aircraft skills. 

In 1973, Ashby was employed by Frontier Airlines as a pilot, flying as a second officer, first officer, and then as captain. He was the first black pilot hired by Frontier Airlines. He flew various aircraft with Frontier, including the Tin Otter, Convair 580, Boeing 737, and MD-80. Robert Ashby leaves an outstanding record of precision, quality, courtesy and safety with Frontier Airlines with over 20,000 flying hours. In addition, he is the first black pilot to reach mandatory retirement age (60 years) with a major airline. Bob Ashby retired on July 17, 1986 while flying as Captain of the Boeing 737.

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