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August 1, 2007
By Julie Summers Walker
"Where in the world is Barrington Irving?" has been a good question since March 23. That's when the intrepid, Jamaican-born, 23-year-old pilot — who wants to introduce disadvantaged children to aviation — took off from Miami's Opa Locka Airport on his round-the-world odyssey in his custom-built Columbia 400 named Inspiration.
Irving landed in Miami at 10:27 a.m. on June 27 and is now the youngest person — and first African American — to fly solo around the world. Irving chronicled his flight in his online blog. Visitors to the blog shared Irving's amazement at the development in Dubai, felt his sadness over the poverty in India, marveled with him at the bustling sights in Hong Kong, and shared his trepidation when flying the longest leg of the trip, across the Bering Sea from Japan to Shemya, Alaska.
How Irving got to be on this flight is a record-breaking story itself. Turned on to aviation when he was just 15, the inner-city youth needed a ticket out of poverty. His volunteer efforts to introduce Miami youth to aviation won him a joint Air Force/Florida Memorial University Flight Awareness Scholarship that covered college tuition and flying lessons. At Florida Memorial he earned his private, commercial, and CFI ratings as well as excelled academically. He founded Experience Aviation, Inc. with a $10,000 grant from the Miami Dade Empowerment Trust and offers information and guidance programs to young people in South Florida. He then secured more than $300,000 in donated components — engine, tires, cockpit systems, and seats — and Columbia Aircraft built him a speedy 400 model, modified with extended fuel tanks. Chevron provided fuel support during his global flight and Microsoft hosted his blog online.
After flying more than 23,000 nautical miles and exhausted from his three-month odyssey, Irving says, "I just want to prove to other kids that the aviation industry needs young people. This flight is just one example of what happens when a student is focused and has the support of family, sponsors, and volunteers."
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.
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