by Jeramy Pritchett
Barrington Irving had a dream. That dream could have been to play football for the numerous colleges across the country that offered him a football scholarship, but it wasn’t. His dream was to be the youngest person to ever fly a solo trip around the world and also become the first black person and first Jamaican to accomplish this record.
At 21 years old Barrington was living in South Florida and studying aerospace at Florida Memorial University. He decided to fly around the world, but with no money in the bank it would seem impossible to most, but Barrington is not most people. He started raising money and asking for donations, and with his passion shining though to those he pitched he was able to get his plane. There was only one problem, the plane was just an assortment of working parts, but still needed to be put together. So, with the aid of some knowledgeable associates, Barrington built his plane. His Cessena 400, aptly dubbed “Inspiration”, was born.
The four seat small craft was not designed for such a trip, so modifications had to be made, including taking the three other seats to accommodate an extra fuel tank. The plane would take daily trips on the way around the world that would last anywhere from two to twelve hours, and fly at altitudes between eight thousand the twenty seven thousand.
I asked Barrington to explain the challenges that he faced. He had an iPod with him loaded with all his favorite music, but was afraid to turn it on, because he wouldn’t be able to hear if the engine had problems. Coffee was a no no due to what it does to your bowels and he couldn’t exactly go use the bathroom. And fighting boredom was always a challenge.
However, the biggest problem with “Inspiration” was that she didn’t come with weather instruments. And this became a big problem on the longest flight of his journey. The flight was from Japan to a small island in the pacific that was I mile long by 1 mile wide and doesn’t appear on most maps. Barrington was more than half way to his destination when the weather turned against him. He radioed for a possible nearby commercial aircraft and was able to get through to a jet in the area. He asked for any recommendations on flight path and the pilot told him “turn around you aren’t going to make it”. Barrington told them that he couldn’t turn around as he didn’t have enough fuel to get back. They advised him that the weather was to bad for a small craft like his to navigate through. Then they asked him for his name, address, and next of kin. Although it was freezing out, Barrington was in a cold sweet and started to believe this would be his last flight. Eventually the pilots were out of range and he was alone. Following his charts and intuition, Barrington started down knowing that his fuel was almost gone. As he came through the clouds he saw a lone light and raced for it. When the tiny plane touched down it had less than 15 minutes of fuel left and one emotionally shaken pilot.
Barrington eventually touched back down in Florida at the end of his journey and full filled a dream. Now he has changed his attention and teaches kids in South Florida about aviation and even flew a plane that was built by his students. Later this year Barrington will take another flight around the world, this time the plane will be much bigger and have people on board. The mission is to do a traveling classroom where students from around the world interact with Barrington and his team and work on math and science projects that the students develop.
I asked Barrington if he would ever do his solo trip again, and he flat out said “No”. When he answered the question you could see in his eyes that he wasn’t joking and that the experience had changed him. Barrington Irving has taken that change and put it to use in helping those around him.
For more information on Barrington and what he is up to please visit www.experienceaviation.org.