Barrington Irving flies plane built by high school students

Barrington Irving, who at 23 became the youngest person and first black pilot to fly solo around the world in 2007, flew an aircraft built by high school students on Oct.15 at Opa-locka Airport in Florida.

The airplane was built by high school students enrolled in a 10-week summer program called Build & Soar, offered by Irving’s nonprofit Experience Aviation Inc. in collaboration with the George T. Baker Aviation School.

During the past summer, the Build & Soar program gave 60 high school students the opportunity to learn about how an airplane is put together, one piece and system at a time, and to work as members of a unified team. Students in the program also built rockets, constructed a wind tunnel for aerodynamic flight testing, and participated in numerous real and computer simulations.

Some of the students who took the course started with low grades or showed little interest in their studies. With Irving as a mentor, they worked to bring their GPAs up to 2.0 so they could qualify for the 10-week summer portion of Build & Soar. Watching the plane take shape was the experience of a lifetime for some of these students, many of whom now plan to become pilots or air traffic controllers or pursue other careers in the aviation industry, Irving said.

The students built a Zenith XL aircraft which they named Inspiration II, in honor of the single-engine Columbia 400 aircraft, Inspiration, that took Irving on his 30,000-mile record-setting flight. Before the flight, Irving said he would fly Inspiration II “as a testament to my faith in these students and their abilities. I flew around the world to show other youth that anyone with a dream who is willing to work hard can achieve what others consider impossible. With Build & Soar, I wanted to give Miami high school students a chance to show the world what they can do.”

“Build & Soar is a dynamic project that is a bridge between education and industry,” said George T. Baker School Principal Sean Gallagan.


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