Barrington Antonio Irving was the youngest person to pilot a plane solo around the world. He is also the first person of African American descent (and the first Jamaican) to accomplish this feat.
Irving was born in Kingston, Jamaica and grew up in Miami, FL. Captain Gary Robinson introduced him to aviation by giving him a tour of the Boeing 777 that he flew for an airline. Inspired, Irving pursued a pilot’s license instead of football. He attended Florida Memorial University where he majored in aeronautical science. In an interview, Irving described his ambition, “I like to do things people say I can’t do.”
Irving took one year to raise the $1,000,000 needed to assemble his single-engine plane and cover anticipated expenses. Irving flew a modified Columbia 400 (a Cessna aircraft) named “Inspiration.” He had to obtain international clearance to fly in the airspace of foreign countries.
After flying 30,000 miles over 97 days with 26 planned stops, Irving completed the trip on June 27, 2007 when he landed in Miami, FL. Along the way, Irving stopped in St. Johns, Canada, Athens, Greece, Cairo, Egypt, Mumbai, India, Hong Kong, Asahikawa, Japan, and Anchorage, AK. He encountered the monsoon rains in India, ice storms outside of Alaska, and sandstorms in Saudi Arabia. At 23, he was the youngest person ever to fly solo around the world.
Irving later founded Experience Aviation (www.experienceaviation.org) to encourage minority youth to pursue careers in building and flying planes. When asked about his love of flying, he replied, “What fires me up about flying is that you’re between Heaven and Earth. Your life is suspended in mid-air. So much precision is required. There is nothing else I can think of that creates such an adrenaline rush and at the same time brings such peace.”
For his accomplishment, Irving was recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives in House Resolution 601 in 2007. He temporarily held the Guinness World Record for being the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world (the current record holder is Carlo Schmidt of Switzerland). He was honored with National Geographic’s Emerging Explorer Award in 2012 for transforming a jet into a mobile, flying classroom.