Featuring: Experience Aviation with Barrington Irving in Miami, Florida
NASA EDGE lands at Experience Aviation in Miami, Florida to interview Barrington Irving, the first African American pilot to fly solo around the world and the youngest pilot ever to complete the global trek. Despite his 26,800-mile journey, Franklin and Blair think they can out fly Barrington Irving in the flight simulators. They may not break any records, but Jacky handles the interview with Barrington exceptionally well.
JACKY: Welcome to NASA Edge.
FRANKLIN: An inside and outside look at all things NASA.
BLAIR: We’re here at Experience Aviation Learning Center, where Franklin and I have the unique opportunity to challenge Barrington Irving in flight simulation.
JACKY: He was the first African-American to fly around the world solo. And he was the youngest.
BLAIR: You’re going to interview him and distract him while we compete on the flight simulator.
JACKY: I’m sure he has lots of interesting things to share with you.
BLAIR: And we have to beat him, so let’s check it out.
JACKY: Barrington, thank you so much for allowing us to come over here. Now, be careful with them because they can cheat. Don’t let them cheat, okay?
JACKY: I want to ask you a couple of questions. You’re the first African-American to fly solo around the world. What got you interested in flying in the first place?
BARRINGTON: I was not until I met a United Airlines pilot. He asked me if I ever thought of becoming a pilot. I told him I didn’t think I was smart enough to become a pilot. I started asking him some questions. After he told me how much money he made, I said, “Man, I think I want to do this.”
JACKY: It got you interested.
BARRINGTON: Yeah, it got me interested. I turned down football scholarships and that was it. I was hooked.
JACKY: How many years have you been flying?
BARRINGTON: I started when I was 18. I got introduced to aviation right before I turned 16. I became an airport bum. I hung out at the airport, watched airplanes.
JACKY: Right now, we’re at the Experience Aviation Learning Center. Can you tell me a little bit about the center?
BARRINGTON: I started my own non-profit organization. One of the reasons why was I kept getting rejected left and right.
BARRINGTON: I said I want to have an organization where kids can do cool things and shock the world with what we’re doing and at the same time build math, science, and reading skills by doing various fun things. We work with high school students. We offer an after school program. I can’t let these guys beat me.
BARRINGTON: We offer an after school program and in addition to that, we’re getting ready to do a project called Build and Soar, where we have students build an airplane in 10 weeks.
BLAIR: What if I reenroll in high school, can I get in on that kit building exercise?
BARRINGTON: If you beat me on this flight, you can be a part of the team that builds the plane.
BLAIR: All right. Power up.
JACKY: What made you decide to fly around the world?
BARRINGTON: Well, I wanted to do something that would be adventurous and at the same time would inspire young people. At first I said, “What if I flew around the United States?” I thought, that’s not cool enough. I said, “What if I flew around the world?” I stopped with that because at the time I didn’t know anything about setting two world records, being the youngest and the first black person to do it. I just wanted to do it to prove a point. That just built up momentum. It’s more than just breaking a record. I actually shattered it. The youngest person before me was 37 years of age.
BARRINGTON: Here I am at 23 breaking this record. A lot of people didn’t think it was a feat that could be accomplished at such a young age.
JACKY: You said you got a lot of rejections but who ended up supporting you?
BARRINGTON: Oh man, we have folks like Miami Executive Aviation. They were my first titled sponsor.
BARRINGTON: And Chevron, Universal Weather; it’s over 40 sponsors.
BARRINGTON: But it wasn’t until I got my first title sponsor, Miami Executive Aviation, when it started to build momentum; Continental Motors and others. It just kept happening… Avidyne, even NASA. I had the opportunity to work with NASA.
BARRINGTON: I worked with the SEMAA program and all the students, 87,000 students nationwide.
JACKY: How long did it take you to get around the world?
BARRINGTON: It took 97 days. Originally, it was suppose to take 4 to 6 weeks but because of weather…. I didn’t have any weather radar. I also didn’t have any deicing, anything to melt the ice of my wings. Weather was probably the most challenging thing along with understanding air traffic controllers, even though English is the international language. Because of the accents and so forth, it really made it challenging.
JACKY: What was your biggest lesson learned throughout everything?
BARRINGTON: The power of the human mind, I would say.
BARRINGTON: I would really say the power of the human mind. Because when I was flying of the northern Atlantic, it was a 10-hour flight. I was getting really tired and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I almost ditched the aircraft in the ocean.
JACKY: Oh my goodness.
BARRINGTON: There was nothing wrong with the plane. I was mentally fatigued, because I was thinking way too much.
JACKY: I have to ask you another quick question. As you were flying around the world, what was the most amazing thing that you saw?
BARRINGTON: I would probably have to say Alaska.
BARRINGTON: Just to see a place in its natural beauty, man didn’t do anything to it, just to see the mountains, the glaciers. It’s scary because I can’t swim.
JACKY: [laughs] Wow! And you flew around the world?
JACKY: Well, I’m sure you are going to continue inspiring students and even those that are older than you. You’re inspiring me and I’m older than you. I appreciate you taking the time. Is there anything else you would like to share with the public?
BARRINGTON: Honestly, we’re doing a lot of exciting things. Check us out on our website, www.experienceaviation.org. Just having the opportunity to do this is truly amazing.
JACKY: Wonderful. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us.
BARRINGTON: Thank you. I’ve got to beat these guys.
JACKY: Good luck.
BLAIR: Good luck. I’m feeling good.
FRANKLIN: Hey, we had a great time here at Experience Aviation. Blair and I went up against Barrington Irving in the flight simulators. Um, my plane didn’t even land. Blair’s, I think, went into the side of a mountain but all in all we had a really good time.
BLAIR: Hey, I can’t land an airbus but I can host a show. Well, maybe that’s debatable. Anyway…
JACKY: Barrington is such an inspiration and a great role model for kids everywhere, including us. That’s it for NASA Edge.
BLAIR: An inside and outside look…
FRANKLIN: At all things NASA.
Page Editor: Blair Allen