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Sunset Park grade school hosts ‘Flying Classroom’ event by Guinness Record-making aviator

February 12, 2021 Jaime DeJesus,
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Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy in Sunset Park on Feb. 10 hosted a virtual journey with Capt. Barrington Irving, the first Black man to fly around the world solo.

At the time of his flight, he also was the youngest man to have circumnavigated the globe.

In 2007, Irving, then age 23, was able to set a Guinness World Record by his flight. He did it 97 days, 145 flight hours, with 27 stops in 13 countries. Before Irving’s achievement, the youngest person to have flown around the world solo was 37 years old.

The meeting at the school, which is located at 5902 6th Ave., featured Irving discussing his experiences and accomplishments as well as holding a “Flying Classroom” session.

The Flying Classroom program, launched in 2014,is a nationwide K-8 digital curriculum that challenges students to design innovative solutions to science-, engineering- or technology-problems Irving presents to the students. The sessions are based on topics Irving came across in his expeditions.

Captain Barrington Irving talks to students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help about his journeys. Photo courtesy of Diocese of Brooklyn

Speaking virtually to students at OLPH, Irving discussed how he got into aviation while in school.

“I was in a store, minding my own business and I was looking outside the store and I saw this guy dressed in this uniform and I didn’t know what it represented,” he said. “He saw me staring at him and approached me. He said, ‘Hey, son. Have you ever thought of becoming a pilot?’ I told him I didn’t think I was smart enough to fly a plane.”

Later, a former high school teacher, who was usually tough on Irving, encouraged him to get into aviation.

“She saw much more potential in me than I saw in myself,” he said. “If it wasn’t for her, I would’ve never made the best decision ever. While everyone was saying going to college and playing football, she said, ‘Barrington, pursue a career in aviation.’”

Later, Irving decided he wanted to fly around the world for two and a half years. However, people told him that it couldn’t be done.

“I didn’t give up on my dream,” he said. “The plane I flew in was $650,000. I couldn’t convince people to rent, lease or borrow one.”

While trying to figure out how to accomplish his goal, he studied 42 different companies who made different parts of the plane. With help, he then pieced the plane together.

After accomplishing his impressive round-the-world feat, he founded the Flying Classroom and also went on 16 more expeditions.

They include going to Israel to highlight the digestive system, seeing a 13-foot crocodile in Australia and a “flying eye” hospital — a plane that houses an eye-surgery facility and travels around the world as its doctors treat cataracts and glaucoma.

All in all, OLPH Principal Margaret Tyndall was pleased with the event.

“This is good for the children in my school,” she told this paper. “They are learning new concepts about science, technology and math. That’s the icing on the cake. I think what they will get from Captain Irving is the ability to persevere the way he did. Not to give up but to follow your dreams.”

The lessons will be incorporated into the Diocesan school and academy curriculum as a component of the 2021 Year of Renewal for Catholic Education.

“It’s a wonderful program,” she said. “We are in the 21st century. We need these children to see further than the books they are looking at but to explore and achieve to be creative.”

The Jamaican-born Irving’s record of being the youngest pilot to circle the globe was broken in 2012 by a 22-year-old Swiss pilot, and then twice more by even younger pilots.

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