Brothers continue a family tradition of military service and love of flying
By Charity L. Cohen
Special to The Alamance News
Standing with his face pressed to the glass pane that overlooked the runway of the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Kyle Haith – then 5 years old – watched planes take off into the sky.
As each airplane lifted into the air, Haith’s arms flew up and he cheered on the pilots from his spot in between his parents, Charles and Pam Haith. After noticing Kyle’s interest in airplanes, the couple took their son to the airport every Sunday so that he could watch the planes take off and land.
What they thought was a fun treat and simple field trip for their son turned out to be the nurturing of a dream.
Now, Lieutenant Commander Kyle Haith, 33, stands in the hangar of a naval air station and reflects on moments like this that shaped him.
“That is what planted the seed in the back of my mind and in my heart,” he said.
Haith grew up with the influence of family members who worked with earlier versions of similar aircraft. He had an uncle from Burlington, Billie Morgan, who was an aviation mechanic for over 20 years and worked on F-14 Tomcats American fighter aircraft.
As a child, Haith thought that his mounting fascination in planes had to be curbed at just becoming a mechanic because he never saw black Americans in the cockpit. His father encouraged him to reach higher and not let his dreams remain on the ground when he really desired to be in the sky.
Lt. Commander Haith graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2011 and received his wings after graduating from flight school in 2013. Since his graduations, Haith has had many accomplishments including becoming a TOPGUN fighter pilot for the US Navy. He recently finished his tour as a TOPGUN instructor and was given the opportunity to shoot flight scenes in the 2022 Oscar-nominated film “Top Gun: Maverick.”
“Being a young, African American kid I looked at Top Gun and there weren’t many African American pilots in that movie,” Haith said. “It was really rewarding to take part in a movie that had minorities who were the stars and the main characters and just to be a beacon and set that example.”
When not dabbling with his newfound movie career, Lt. Commander Haith just completed his tour as an instructor at Top Gun in Fallon, Nevada, and is now stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore in northern California.
THE HARD PART OF WATCHING HIS SON IN “TOP GUN” MOVIE:
“It was it was pretty surreal. The hard part was I’m in the theater, and I want to yell ‘That’s my son, that’s my son!’”
– Charles Haith, father of Haith brother pilots and 1984 Cummings High School graduate
His father is Burlington native Charles Haith, a 1984 Cummings High School graduate who is now a pastor and chief operating officer for the Orlando World Outreach Church. The senior Haith couldn’t put his excitement at seeing his son on the big-screen – and in the film’s credits – into words.
“It was it was pretty surreal,” pastor Haith said. “The hard part was I’m in the theater, and I want to yell ‘That’s my son, that’s my son!’”
With all of these achievements behind Lt. Commander Haith, one of his proudest moments was just last month when he was able to look to the future by passing his wings – referred to as “legacy wings” – along to his younger brother, Joshua Haith, 26, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 2020 and from flight school in April.
“To be able to pass on to him that legacy and to have a younger brother that’s going to carry that forward as I’m nearing the end of my career kind of symbolizes passing that torch to him as he begins his career,” Lt. Commander Haith said.
The pride and joy felt by Lt. Commander Haith was similar to that which was felt by, now, naval aviator Joshua Haith.
[Story continues below photos.]
“Him giving me his wings and joining the ranks of naval aviation and being able to talk another language with him was really just a moment of true reflection, and I was like, ‘wow, I’m finally here,” Joshua Haith said.
As a child, Joshua wanted to become an astronaut and while researching how to achieve this dream, he and his dad found that many astronauts started out as naval aviators. So Joshua, too, set his sights on becoming an aviator. He soon found that his love for flying helicopters burns a bit brighter than his dreams of becoming an astronaut.
“The space program kind of died off there for a little bit and I was like, ‘okay, if I can’t go to space anymore, what’s the next best thing,’ and it was flying.” Joshua said. “And so now I don’t think it’s the main goal anymore, I just want to master my craft with flying.”
He has flown three types of aircraft, starting out with Cessnas and T-6 planes and transitioning into helicopters with TH-57 aircraft.
When Joshua reflects on his journey, he has the support of his family and friends to thank for helping him along the way. He said the prayers from his family, including his grandmother and Burlington resident, Marion Harvey; words of encouragement and even the funny memes and jokes are what kept him going.
“I wouldn’t have made through this seven year journey, it wasn’t a solo operation, it was definitely a group and team effort,” he said.
Beyond the support of their family, the brothers recently learned that their aviator paths were paved by their grandmother’s brother.
That great uncle, Richard Lee of Burlington, worked among the Tuskegee Airmen – the first black soldiers to enter the Army Air Corps – as a mechanic. He was stationed in Italy with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II where he repaired and serviced P-51 fighters.
“Just knowing that I was following in their footsteps and knowing how important it was for them to trailblaze that path and that I would not be where I am if they didn’t do what they did makes me extremely proud.”
It would seem that this propensity for flight is something buried in the pair’s DNA – but really, it’s a desire to fly high enough to continue breaking glass ceilings for future generations that guides the Haith brothers.
Their father said he and his family are very proud of their sons’ successes and he sees this leadership quality in both of them.
“They’re trailblazers,” pastor Haith said. “One of the things that we’ve tried to instill in them is to reach back to those who are behind you and let them know that these are occupations that anybody can do, you just have to work hard.”
For both of the Haith brothers, this charge to “reach back” given to them by their parents is one that they take pride in.
“The most important is being able to inspire younger generations and being able to be a light so that when younger kids see me and Josh and see that movie, they know that they can do that too, they don’t have to be in a supporting role,” Lt. Commander Haith said.