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Youngest Flyer Set to Embark on Solo Flight Around the World

At just 23years old, Barrington Irving strives to become the first African American andyoungest person to fly solo around the world, planning to clock 130 hours offlight time during a four-continent sweep.

Irving plans to take off Friday at 10:30 a.m.Eastern from Miami in his single-engine aircraft. He isscheduled to stop in at the Atlantic Aviation at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, NY, to speak to students at the York College Aviation Institute on Monday,March 26, before jetting to Canada and then overseas.

Irving is following in the footsteps ofother record-breaking flyers, including Amelia Earhart who set out for a flightaround the world in June 1937, and Charles Lindbergh, who completed the firstnon-stop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in May 1927. More recently in1986, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager completed the first non-stop,around-the-world flight. In March 2005, Steve Fossettbecame the first person to fly solo, non-stop around theglobe without refueling.

The flightpath of his "World Flight Adventure" is expected to take five to six weeks andwould carry Irving to 23 locales, including the Azores, Spain, Greece, Egypt, Dubai, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and Japan beforelooping back to the United States by way of Alaska.

Barrington foresees two particularlychallenging stints: crossing the Atlantic Ocean, which could take about 16hours, and the trip from northern Japan to Alaska, where "the weather canchange on you in 10 minutes like that," he said.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in inner-city Miami, Irving found his true calling at theage of 15 while working in his parents' bookstore where he met a customer whohappened to be Jamaican airline pilot Captain Gary Robinson.

He washooked by the next day when Robinson gave Irving a tour of the cockpit of a Boeing777. Irving pursued flying lessons, enrolled in a community college tostudy aeronautics,and received a joint Air Force/Florida Memorial University Flight AwarenessScholarship so he could transfer to the university program. By age 19, Irving had earned his Private Pilot and Flight Instructor licenses and his Commercial andInstrument Ratings.

"When I wasturned on to aviation, my life changed, and I basically had the opportunity tosee another world that I probably never would've seen or considered," Irving told Aviation.com.

He added,"I never thought I could become a pilot. I thought you had to be a rocketscientist."

Theupcoming flightis more than a dream come true. Irving says he hopes to inspire inner-city andminority youth to follow their dreams in the realm of aviationand aerospace careers. He named his Lancair Columbia 400 aircraft"Inspiration," because "that's that's what I want my historic venture to be foryoung people. They can look at me and realize that if I can achieve my dream,they can too," Irving said.

"I wish Ihad a chance to bring every child tracking the flight on my adventure, but Iwill be carrying all their hearts with me in the plane," Irving said. "This iswhat fuels me--having youth believe in what I can do, so they can also begin tobelieve in themselves."

For moreinformation about the upcoming flight, visit the site of Irving's non-profitorganization, Experience AviationInc.

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Jeanna Bryner
Jeanna is the managing editor for LiveScience, a sister site to SPACE.com. Before becoming managing editor, Jeanna served as a reporter for LiveScience and SPACE.com for about three years. Previously she was an assistant editor at Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a Master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a science journalism degree from New York University. To find out what her latest project is, you can follow Jeanna on Google+.