Young, black pilot inspires students

Published June 24, 2007

HOUSTON - Two stops before completing his record-setting, around-the-world flight, Barrington Irving glided into Houston on Saturday with a message for about 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, a few minutes after exiting 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 Miami on March 23 hoping to become the youngest person and first black pilot to fly solo around the globe.

Irving plans to arrive back at Opa-locka Executive Airport on Wednesday after a final stop in Alabama. His journey in recent days has taken him from Juneau, Alaska, to Seattle to Denver, where he departed Saturday morning.

His plane is dotted with stickers of small flags of several of the countries he visited, including Spain, Italy, Greece and Japan. His 21, 000-mile trip included stops in Cleveland and New York before passing into Canada, then crossing the Atlantic, through Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

He said the most difficult part of the trip was weather, which delayed some legs, and keeping his mind occupied during the long flights.

Landing small planes in some foreign countries, he said, can be a challenge but he managed with the help of a savvy ground crew.