Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee Celebrates His 100th Birthday by Flying a Plane

Helen Murphy

Retired Col. Charles McGee, reportedly the oldest of the nine surviving Tuskegee Airmen, celebrated his milestone birthday on Saturday by returning to the skies.

According to The Associated Press, McGee flew a private jet between Frederick, Maryland, and the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Friday, a day before his 100th birthday.

McGee is a member of the Tuskegee Airmen — the famed group of African-American military pilots who fought the Axis Powers in World War II. The success of the Tuskegee Airmen helped influence President Harry Truman’s decision to desegregate the U.S. Armed Forces in 1948.

RELATED: Tuskegee Airman Robert Friend, Who Flew 142 Combat Missions in World War II, Dead at 99

WTHR reported that McGee, who flew with a co-pilot, flew almost the entire flight — including the takeoff and landing.

During his time as a pilot, McGee flew 409 fighter combat missions over three wars: World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. According to WTHR, he was drafted when he was a sophomore in college and served in the Air Force for 30 years.

Charles McGee | David Tulis/AP/Shutterstock
Charles McGee | David Tulis/AP/Shutterstock

In 2016, McGee told PEOPLE that, despite all of his accomplishments, he’s not concerned with his personal legacy.

“It’s not personal recognition that I seek,” he said at the time. “I want to pass on to the young people of today that you can’t let your circumstances be an excuse for not achieving.”

RELATED: Veterans from World War II’s All-Black Aviation Unit on How They Shattered Racial Stereotypes: ‘We Proved That Thinking Wrong’

Even with segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces at the time McGee was a pilot, he said the airmen did their best to put aside their frustrations in order to prove themselves.

“It wasn’t pleasant, but we didn’t look at the negative,” McGee told PEOPLE. “We looked at the positive and that was we were given the chance to prove that that thinking was wrong.”