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Record-setting Flight Links Aviation’s Past, Future

Fifteen-year-old Kimberly Anyadike has become the youngest black female to fly from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. After a week of flying from Compton, Calif., Anyadike, who learned to fly at age 12, reached Newport News, Va., on July 5, piloting a Cessna 172 in tribute to the famous Tuskegee Airmen. At each stop, the local chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, including original veterans of the famous World War II squadron, met Anyadike, refueled her plane, and offered a place to sleep and encouragement. One of Anyadike’s wingmen was Maj. Levi Thornhill, an Army Air Corps mechanic during the World War II.

“I think this is a great experience for her,” said Thornhill. “She’s getting a lot of experience and getting the opportunity to improve her skills much more rapidly than she would otherwise. I have been very impressed with her abilities.” On the way back to California from Washington, D.C., her destination after Newport News, Anyadike will retrace a trip made by Chauncey E. Spencer, a black aviation pioneer from Lynchburg, Va. His son, Chauncey E. Spencer II, who flew from Detroit for the historic occasion Sunday, says,

“My father was told that ‘coloreds’ couldn’t fly … that they didn’t have the intelligence. … He proved them wrong. He flew around the South on a trip to encourage African-Americans to get into aviation. Her flight is proof of what you can do if you put your heart and your mind to it. She started flying at 12 and at 15, she’s in the history books.” The trip will count toward Anyadike’s small-aircraft private pilot’s license.

“I love history. It’s one of my favorite subjects,” says Anyadike. “I love flying, and I’m getting a lot of experience.”

July 13, 2009

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