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AP—Two stops before completing a journey that would make him the youngest person to fly solo around the Earth, Barrington Irving glided into Houston on June 23 with a message for the roughly 50 students who cheered his arrival.
“I think this shows it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you have or what you don’t have,” Irving said after climbing out of his single-engine Columbia 400.
The 23-year-old aerospace student, who built his plane from more than $300,000 in donated parts, took off from Florida on March 23 in his bid to become the youngest person and first Black pilot to fly solo around the globe.
After one more stop, in Alabama, Irving planned to return to Opa-locka Executive Airport outside Miami on Wednesday to complete his journey.
From Florida, he flew to Cleveland and New York before continuing into Canada, then flying across the Atlanta to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. From Asia, he flew to Juneau, Alaska, then Seattle and Denver before arriving in Houston. His plane is dotted with stickers of small flags of several of the countries he visited.
He said the most difficult part of the trip was weather, which delayed some legs, and keeping his mind occupied during the long flights.
“”There were times I was very frustrated,” he said.
Irving was born in Jamaica and grew up in Miami. He said he saw little chance for success until he met a Jamaican-American pilot at his parents’ bookstore who took him to see a Boeing 777. The 15-year-old was mesmerized and turned down college football scholarships to become a pilot.
Irving is now studying at Florida Memorial University and has private and commercial pilot licenses. He also founded Experience Aviation, a Miami-based organization that encourages minority youths to pursue aviation careers.
He said a book and documentary are likely as well as other projects.
“I have a lot of great ideas,” Irving said.