Irving takes mentoring to new heights

Irving takes mentoring to new heights

What’s a man to do after he becomes the first Black person and youngest pilot to fly a plane solo around the world? If you’re Barrington Irving, you launch The Flying Classroom and make it your mission to mentor minority youth.

Irving’s youth mentoring began long before he flew 30,000 miles in 97 days on a solo mission back in 2007.

The Jamaican-born graduate of Miami Northwestern High School and Florida Memorial University developed an interest for flying at 15 when his mentor, Capt. Gary Robinson, walked into his parents’ Pembroke Pines bookstore dressed in a pilot’s uniform. Irving said that random chance meeting with his mentor marked his life forever.

Just like the Tuskegee Airmen, Black military pilots who fought in World War II, Irving knew he could fly if someone taught him how. Now he’s trying to teach children interested in pursuing a career in aviation and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

“When I was younger, I didn’t think I was smart enough to fly a plane, but my mentor showed me otherwise,” Irving said. “I want to show kids they can be whatever they want to be. If I can be a pilot, they can be, too.”

It was in 2003 when Irving founded Experience Aviation, a nonprofit youth educational program based out of Opa-locka Airport. Then last September his mentoring reached new heights when he created The Flying Classroom, a nine-week course for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, which combines STEM with video lessons of Irving’s explorations across 11 countries in three continents.

Students also learn how geometry and physics are used to make video games realistic and discover how STEM principles can help in the building of airplanes and race cars.

“My goal with this program is to motivate, inspire, challenge and help kids realize their true potential and