October 9, 2011
By Thomas B Haines
The world’s first airborne classroom is set for a 2013 takeoff with adventurer and educator Barrington Irving in the left seat. Irving in 2007 at age 23 became the youngest person to fly around the world solo and the first African American to make such a trek. His trip was meant to inspire youth to consider aviation as a career. His project, called Experience Aviation, led him to develop a foundation that showcases aviation as a means to motivate youth, especially from disadvantaged areas. The foundation helped fund a project where 60 school children built an airplane in 10 weeks. Irving was the test pilot for the finished airplane.
Announced at the National Business Aviation Association convention on Oct. 9, his latest project has even more lofty goals—interacting with youth in classrooms worldwide from the cockpit of an Embraer Phenom 100 at FL410. The Journey for Knowledge flying classroom is partly underwritten by entrepreneur and philanthropist Fabio Alexander and Embraer as well as a host of other sponsors. The project is designed to encourage students to pursue education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as well as geography, history, culture, and meteorology.
Using the Phenom 100 as a flying classroom, Irving will communicate with students via live video feed and other social media. “We were hoping that we could reach 1 million kids with this project,” said Irving, “but it appears we already have 1.3 million lined up and we think this is only the beginning.” NASA educational programs and other national aviation groups have already signed on to participate in the project.
“This is a great example of how business aircraft are used to advance our society and enhance quality of life around the world,” said Ernest Edwards, president of Embraer Executive Jets. This project can “inspire and excite our emerging generations and motivate them to pursue a future of STEM disciplines.”
Alexander, founder of Miami Executive Aviation at Florida’s Opa-Locka Executive Airport, has founded numerous successful companies. As someone without a strong formal education, he is a big believer that youth need to be encouraged to explore the STEM curricula in order to help keep the United States competitive globally. He also helped fund Irving’s first round-the-world flight.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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