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Transcontinental flight expected to make history

By Ethan Cirmo

She’s too young to get a private pilot certificate, but she’s flown both airplanes and helicopters. Her practical skill at flying is good enough for a commercial rating, but her demanding school studies make ground school a chore. She’s tenacious enough to pay no attention to the limitations she’s supposed to have. When she went to the head of her flight school and asked about her cross country flight, she really thought that it was supposed to be across-the-country. And this is where our story begins.

Kimberley Anyadike is 15 years old, and she loves to fly. She goes to a program offered by Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, which provides scholarship and after school programs to at risk and economically disadvantaged youth. She came to TAM when she was 12 and got bitten by the flight bug.

She wanted to know where she was supposed to fly for her cross country, so she went to Robin Petgrave, founder of TAM. When she found out that the cross country flight wasn’t actually supposed to be across-the-country, but a measly 50 miles or more, she was wholly disappointed.

“Why can’t I go across the country?” she asked. Petgrave responded, “…well, hmm…I don’t know.”

There was no legal reason why she couldn’t do this, and she had the ability, so what could stop her? Certainly, it’s an unusual request from a student pilot, and it brings to the table issues that don’t have to be considered for the average cross country.

Petgrave described to her that, while she could do it, there were many other hurdles in her way. For instance: money. A flight such as she wanted to do, in a Cessna 172 with a G1000, would be monstrously expensive.

“Well, what if I planned everything?” she asked him. Petgrave grinned. Anyadike began securing funding that very day. In a stroke of luck, TAM had recently received a federal funding package of $476,000, which will come to her aid, should she need it.

Slowly but surely, the pieces of the puzzle began to fall in to place. Her flight would be from Compton, CA to Newport News, VA. She would be joined by former TAM graduate and now airline pilot Ronell Norman, as last but not least, Levi Thornhill, one of the famed and few Tuskegee Airmen.

Each one of TAM’s aircraft is named after a living Tuskegee Airman, and each features an autograph and permanent placard in the cockpit, to remind students of the rich aviation legacy their flight school honors.

The record-seeking edge existed in Anyadike’s family before her transcontinental flight idea. Her sister, Kelly, set a world record in 2008 for being the youngest African-American female to solo in four different fixed-wing aircraft on the same day. Not to be outdone, Kimberley has certainly upped the ante. If she is successful in her journey, she will become the youngest African American female ever to accomplish a transcontinental flight.

TAM itself has a strange knack for record breaking. Five of their students have collectively broken 10 world records; a testament to the fact that they provide outstanding flight training, motivation and encouragement. Moreover, they emphasize the importance of aviation history and the legacy that it has left on America.

Kimberley’s flight will begin June 29 and end appropriately on July 4. This, however, is just the end of the transcontinental portion of her journey. Many stops are planned after she has completed her main objective. The most notable is a visit to Washington D.C. on July 7, where she will be joined by TAM founder Robin Petgrave, as well as actors John Schneider and Lou Gossett Jr., and Omarossa from TV’s “The Apprentice.” There the group will personally thank California Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Laura Richardson and the First Family for their help and support in obtaining the Federal funding package which was recently approved by President Obama.

Anyadike is living, youthful proof that you don’t necessarily need your private pilot’s license to do something challenging, meaningful, and out-of-the-ordinary in aviation. The record setting is notable and enticing, but more importantly, the practical experience that you will gain in cross country flight will be invaluable. Regardless of the adventure you plan, going above and beyond what is required for your certification is a great way to gain piloting experience, quality time getting to know your instructor, see beautiful scenery, and just plain have fun, which may very well be the keystone of General Aviation as a whole.

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