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Friday, March 30, 2007

First African American Flyer to Fly Solo

Twenty-three-year-old Barrington Irving will not only be the youngest aviator to fly solo around the world but he will be the first African-American pilot to accomplish the mission. Irving, whose mentor is Eric Lindbergh, is sponsored by Kelly Aerospace Thermal Systems. Born in Jamaica and raised in Miami’s inner city, Irving will launch from Miami, heading toward Canada, the Mediterranean, Middle East, Asia and the Caribbean before returning to Miami. He hopes his solo trek will inspire other minorities to strive for careers that may otherwise seem out of reach, including the aviation industry, still one of the last white industrial bastions, especially among its executive ranks.
His aircraft, a Lancair Columbia 400, a single-engine aircraft described as the Ferrari of small aircraft, has been named Inspiration. Irving is an aeronautical science major from Florida Memorial College and expects the trip to start on March 23 and end April 30. He is founding president of non-profit Experience Aviation, founded to promote aviation careers to minority youth.
The mission is a three-year-old project which began in 2003 when Irving began calling aircraft manufactures to borrow or lease an aircraft. Rebuffed, he began scouring air shows throughout the country for used parts. After securing $300,000 in parts, Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation built him the world’s fastest single-engine aircraft with modified fuel tanks to extend range. Upon his return from his Experience Aviation World Flight Adventure, Irving will be honored by McDonald’s Air & Sea Show as part of McDonald’s National Salute to American Heroes. Last year the show honored the Tuskegee Airmen.
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