Celebrating African Americans in Aviation
Kenny Roy was born in 1990 and raised in Compton, California. While still a child, his parents bought him a flight simulator for his computer, and his love of flying had not diminished since. He then discovered a youth program near his home and joined Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum, run out of Compton/Woodley Airport. It was soon discovered that Kenny Roy was a natural, and after volunteering at the museum in order to obtain free flying lessons, he soon logged over 50 hours of flight time and became an accomplished pilot.
However, it was not enough for him, and Roy decided and aimed to fly solo. The legal age in the United States to earn a solo pilot's license is 16, but he was determined not to wait that long. Through the Compton youth-aviation program had Roy met eleven-year-old Jimmy Haywood, another enthusiastic young pilot who had some 20 hours' worth of flying experience. The two decided to make history with a flight to Canada in order for Roy to earn his solo license. With a certified flight instructor at their side, the two boys set their course for Canada. When they made it to Vancouver, Kenny took a physical and then went aloft with an instructor. As part of the test, he had to demonstrate stalls, spins, and spiral dives in the plane; back on the ground he took a tough written exam, the Canadian Pre-Solo Aeronautical Test, for which he had studied over a lengthy two-day marathon session. He successfully passed the exam, becoming the youngest black pilot in the world to be licensed to fly solo.
Barrington Antonio Irving, Jr.
Barrington Irving was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1983, and grew up in Miami, Florida. Even at the young age of 15, he knew he wanted to fly. He is a graduate of Miami Northwestern High School where he turned down multiple football scholarship offers with his sights set on aviation. He began working odd jobs and studying long hours, studying aerospace engineering at Florida Memorial University so that he could compete for fellowships that would get him his dream of a pilot's license.
In 2005, Barrington founded the Miami-based nonprofit organization Experience Aviation, Inc. (EA) to introduce other young people to career opportunities in the field. In 2006, he opened the EA Learning Center that provides middle and high school students with an after-school "Discover Aviation" program that includes career guidance, and in the summer of 2007, the Center launched a 10-week program entitled Build & Soar that gave 60 students the opportunity to construct a Zenith XL aircraft.
Irving built his plane from more than $300,000 in donated parts, and in 2007 he began a record-setting journey around the globe. After a 97 day flight, from March 23-June 27, he safely landed in his airplane, the Inspiration, and became the first black and youngest person to solo around the world.
Kimberly Anyadike was born in 1994 and raised in Compton, California. Anyadike learned to fly at age 12 through a Compton-based organization called Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum, which offers aviation lessons in an after-school program for disadvantaged youths. On June 29, 2009, Anyadike departed from Compton, California with Tuskegee Airman Levi Thornhill and Safety pilot Ronell Norman, headed for Newport News, Virginia. When she landed from her 13-day journey, Anyadike became the youngest black female to pilot across the country.
Anyadike's plans are to continue flying privately, and she also has her sights set on becoming a cardiovascular surgeon. Her flight was a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, and 50 of them even signed her airplane along the way. "They left such a great legacy," Anyadike said of the U.S. Army Air Corps' all-black combat unit. "I had big shoes to fill. ... All they wanted to do was to be patriots for this country. They were told no, that they were stupid, that they didn't have cognitive development to fly planes. They didn't listen. They just did what they wanted to do."