Record-setting pilot tries to inspire students
By Terrance Peacock Correspondent March 20, 2014 7:30PM
Barrington Irving, founder of Experience Aviation, poses with a student at Country Club Hills School District 160's Spring Teacher Institute at Meadowview School. | Terrance Peacock~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 22, 2014 6:23AM
At age 23, Barrington Irving became the youngest person to fly solo around the world and the first African-American and native Jamaican to accomplish the feat.
Now, at 30, Irving’s mission is to share his encouraging story to children so they know that anything is possible if they set their mind to it.
Irving this brought his message this week to teachers and students at Country Club Hills School District 160’s Spring Teacher Institute at Meadowview School.
Irving is founder of Experience Aviation, a nonprofit educational organization that seeks to persuade minority youth to pursue careers in aviation.
He told them about his solo circumnavigation flight in a Cessna 400 airplane in 2007 and afterward took pictures with students and signed autographed books for them to take home.
He stressed the importance of science and math education to interest students in pursuing aviation and other careers. Irving said if no one had told him about math and science are important to many fields, including aviation, he would never have followed his career path.
“Somebody did it for me,” Irving said. “Math and science didn’t become real for me until someone introduced me to an industry like aviation where it was real. Today’s kids need that type of exposure.”
Adrienne Merritt, director of professional development for District 160, said the district invited Irving to speak to the children because he thinks outside the box and emphasizes not placing limits on their potential.
Irving says children don’t have to wait until they’re an adult to accomplish big things, she said.
“Build an airplane or build a car, you can do that now,” Merritt said of his message. “You can’t drive it, but we can drive it for you. That’s quite inspiring that they can do that and apply those skills to their learning in the classroom.”
Irving said for children interested in aviation, there are plenty of resources to help them get started but they must pursue them.
“You just have to get up off your butt and do it,” he said. “Will you have failure? Yes. Will you have rejection? Yes, but the best part is getting back up and pursuing your dream.”