In a time where children's role models take the shape of sports players and movie stars, today's society will never know the role models that the older generations had during the barn-stormer era of American history

In a time where children's role models take the shape of sports players and movie stars, today's society will never know the role models that the older generations had during the barn-stormer era of American history.

Once upon a time, one of the most dangerous jobs and most looked-up upon jobs was that of a pilot. When we think of the history and heritage of the Delta, we never think of the rich aviation history in the area.

In fact, did you know that aviation history began in the Delta?

Rewind to nearly 150 years ago. There was a man in the 1870's not far from Phillips County who, at the time of the Civil War was too old to muster into regular Confederate service, so he sent his slave Andrew McDermott in his place. Andrew joined the 24th Arkansas Infantry as a Black Confederate soldier who took part in the battle of Arkansas Post in January 1863.

Following the Civil War, Andrew's master Charles McDermott began experimenting with his newly patented "flying apparatus." He was the first man to create a heavier-than-air aircraft. The Wright Brothers in their powered flight experiments in North Carolina later stole his multi-wing design years later. It all began in the Delta.

Today we rarely think of pilots as pioneers in American history. Today in Helena the most exposure we get to aircraft is the occasional crop duster or medical helicopter overhead. We do not give the sky a second thought, especially when choosing role models for our children. Some children may think of a firefighter as a heroic occupation, while some may consider a pilot as such. When you combine the two, we have the story of Helena resident Johnny Broome.

Broome carries the Delta air heritage on his shoulders as a firefighter/pilot. He is often in far away places fighting large wildfires that we see raging on the nightly news. Broome and other firefighting pilots hardly get a moment's notice, but these pilots are akin to the special talents the barn stormers of old were known so well for. I used to be a pilot and cannot begin to imagine the training and level of expertise these men have in the cockpit. Ripping through the air at high speeds and taking turns faster than most people could imagine in a carnival ride, crop dusters and firefighter pilots are among the most specialized and trained professionals around.