By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Barrington Irving, who in 2007 became the youngest person and the first black pilot to fly solo around the world, now has a new project -- planning another round-the-world trip, this time to all seven continents, flying a Hawker 400XP. The flying classroom project aims to inspire kids to study science, technology, engineering, math, geography, culture, and history. "This isn't just an aircraft; it's an exploration vehicle for learning that will teach millions of kids in ways they've never been taught before -- making them part of the expedition and research," said Irving. The ambitious project helped inspire the National Geographic Society to name Irving an Emerging Explorer, a designation usually given to early-career scientists, and never before to an aviator/educator.
Irving's global flight, set to launch next year, will cover more than 50,000 miles and take about six months, with about 75 ground expeditions including the Galapagos Islands, Africa's Serengeti Plains, and the Taj Mahal. Educators and explorers will share the experience with students around the world via satellite communications. Irving also runs Experience Aviation, a nonprofit based in Miami, Fla., that aims to inspire kids to study science and math. "We work with all types of kids, young women, young men, the straight-A students, and kids just out of the juvenile justice system," Irving told AVweb in a recent interview. Working together to build an airplane is a new experience for all of them, he said, so all are on equal footing. One group of kids, some as young as 8 years old, are working together to build a car "faster than a Ferrari," Irving said. "We're planning to race the Supercar against a fighter jet. It's just amazing to see what children can do when given the resources and the opportunity to do it. What we're doing is really working." For more from Irving and details about his planned global flight, listen to the podcast interview with AVweb's Mary Grady.