Black History Month: Record-holder Captain Barrington Irving inspires students nationwide

Posted at 4:46 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 16:49:58-05

At age 15, Captain Barrington Irving, who was born in Jamaica and grew up in Miami, knew he wanted to become a pilot.

“My life was changed by a United Airlines pilot, Captain Gary Robinson, who took the time to talk to me in a store,” said Captain Irving.

Little did he know, that conversation would’ve changed his and thousands more.

“In 2007, I thought for sure a black man had flown solo around the world. And I realized they were just never given that opportunity,” said Captain Irving.

At age 23, Captain Irving became the youngest person and only African American to fly solo around the world. A 97-day journey, flying 30,000 miles, setting two world records.

“When I walk into a room and someone announces me that way, the kids raise their heads in the classroom. You realize the empowerment that it provides for others, not only for young black children, but other minorities and all types of children,” said Captain Irving.

When he returned from his trip, he created The Flying Classroom, for students who are passionate about aviation. The program leads them on virtual global expeditions through STEM projects.

“At Experience Aviation, we give students the opportunity to utilize aviation to understand how to use math and use it in the real world. That’s what we’ve been doing for years under our nonprofit, then it expanded to The Flying Classroom, where we sell curriculum to school districts all across the country to bring to life science, technology, engineering and math,” said Captain Irving.

“This isn’t just in my textbook, like Barack Obama becoming the first black president. But knowing someone in person and seeing the human side of it, just really shows how realistic your goals can be,” said Zion Moss.

The program has made an impact on students like Zion, working at SpaceX this summer.

“If I want to be the first astronaut on Mars, well I know the first black pilot who flew solo, and I see what he did. He’s not superman, he didn’t have this major advantage over everyone, he simply worked hard for what he wanted to achieve. So having that inspiration helps me push through all of my adversities,” said Moss.

“I’ll never forget the first thing I told the pilot who mentored me. When he introduced me to aviation, I said I don’t think I was smart enough to do this. Imagine if I believed that. I wouldn’t be standing here right now. So that’s a huge component. You have to believe, whatever life throws at you, you deserve it,” said Captain Irving.

Fore more information on The Flying Classroom, click here.