Meet Captain Barrington Irving, who became the first Black and youngest pilot to fly solo around the world. On March 23, 2007, Irving stepped into a single-engine plane at the Opa-Locka Airport near Miami and embarked on the round-the-world flight.
His solo flight journey ended on June 27, 2007, in Miami and took 97 days, 150 hours (of flight time), and 26,800 miles. This didn’t come without challenges though, as he experienced moments of loneliness and frustration and bad weather.
Yet, Irving, who was then a senior majoring in aeronautical science, persevered and completed that historic flight as he wanted to inspire young people around the world to believe in themselves and avoid negative influences.
Today, Irving has turned his focus on the next generation of pilots, by having his own aviation training school to train the next generation of pilots. He founded Barrington Irving Technical Training School to help teach people interested in becoming pilots the skills that are needed to succeed in the aviation industry.
He recently celebrated 15 new graduates who completed his training program with a ceremony at Opa-locka Airport in Miami, Florida, where Irving also started his aviation journey.
“I am so proud of them, and to know what they started from,” Irving told News 7 Miami. “Opa-locka Airport is where I got my start. These young people are signing with various companies in the community who said, you know what, ‘We’re going to give you a chance, we’re going to give you an opportunity to flourish within our industry.’”
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, on November 11, 1983, Irving was six years old when his family relocated to inner-city Miami, Florida. There, his parents operated a Christian bookstore where Irving worked when he was not in school.
By 15, Irving had developed an interest in aviation, thus, when a customer (a United Airlines pilot) at his parents’ bookstore invited him to visit the airport and tour the cockpit of a Boeing 777 airliner, Irving was elated.
His interest in learning to fly grew and this compelled him to work odd jobs at airports. Such jobs enabled him to earn flying time in light aircraft while practicing at home with a computer flight simulator, according to BlackPast.
Irving proceeded to Miami Northwestern Senior High School and at the same time, did a variety of jobs before graduating in 2002. He turned down multiple football scholarships so he could focus on aviation.
In 2003, while volunteering and teaching youth about aviation opportunities, Irving was awarded the $100,000 Florida Memorial University/ U.S. Air Force Flight Awareness Scholarship.
The scholarship paid him to attend Florida Memorial University, where he studied aerospace science. The scholarship also took care of his flight training, and Irving soon earned many pilot ratings and flying hours.