On June 27, 2007, at 10:27 a.m., an African-American pilot made history. Barrington Irving, 23, landed at Miami's Opa Locka Airport in Inspiration, a Lancair Columbia 400 designed for the intrepid young man, who is the youngest person and first man of African descent to fly solo around the world.
Irving left March 23 from Opa Locka on an eastbound flight that would take him through more than 23,000 nautical miles of dangerous airspace, storms, icing, and freezing weather. The flight was the culmination of Irving's passionate mission to introduce aviation to children in the United States.
His organization, Experience Aviation, is the result of Irving's commitment to aviation and youth. He started Experience Aviation to educate middle- and high-school students about aviation with a $10,000 grant from the Miami Dade Empowerment Trust. With the success of the program, the Empowerment Trust increased its commitment to $75,000 to reach more youth in the community. Irving used those funds to set up the first Experience Aviation Learning Center, using donated computers and Microsoft Flight Simulator software, at Opa Locka Airport.
To further illustrate his mission, Irving planned his global flight and secured more than $300,000 in donated components - the engine, tires, cockpit systems, and seats - and Columbia built him the world's fastest single-engine piston airplane, modified with extended fuel tanks a few weeks before his global flight.
The trip was planned for five weeks, but Irving's adventures - including monsoons and a tropical storm in India, freezing and icing conditions crossing the North Pacific, a delayed flight across the Bering Sea from Japan to Shemya, Alaska, and then an uneventful final leg across the United States - forced the trip into more than eight weeks.
An exhausted but exhilarated Irving, greeted in Miami by friends, supporters, and a host of media, said, "I just wanted to prove to other kids that the aviation industry needs young people, and they too can achieve whatever dream they want in aviation."
(June 28, 2007)