Kimberly Anyadike, 15, Becomes Youngest Af-Am Woman to Fly Across the U.S.

(H/t to Jack & Jill Politics)

Navigating a single-engine plane, and accompanied by a Tuskegee Airman, 87-year-old Levi Thornhill and her adult safety pilot, Ronnell Noman, a certified commercial pilot, Kimberly Anyadike completed her 13-day journey from Compton, CA to Newport News, VA–across the continental United States–and back again on Saturday, July 11. Consequently, Kimberly became the youngest African American female pilot ever to achieve this goal.

Kimberly has been flying since age 12, when she took advantage of a program sponsored by Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, based in Compton, CA. The museum began there in 1997. It now offers flying lessons to 800 at-risk and economically disadvantaged youth–from ages 8 to 18–through an after-school program. No doubt, the program is to instill pride and self-worth into these children at a crucial moment in their lives. A more interesting result has been that five students have set more than 10 world records in the program’s 12-year history.

Kimberly told her instructor, Robin Petgrave, only a few months into her lessons that she wanted to take on this feat.

Petgrave said they were discussing requirements for Anyadike’s small aircraft private pilot’s license, a flight of 50 nautical miles. “She asked, ‘Well, why can’t I fly cross-country?'”

Petgrave said after he told her all the things that would need to be done to pull off such a flight, her answer was, “‘Well, why can’t I do all those things?’ I told her it would take a lot of work and she told me, ‘I want a lot of work.'”

Kimberly wasn’t interested in setting time records or to become a celebrity (because there are no records of someone as young as fifteen flying across the country.) Her motivation was the sheer joy of flying. She once told her mother that flying was like “a wild ride on Magic Mountain.” Kimberly took the single-engine Cessna through bumpy thunderstorms in Texas, and witnessed unforgettable sunsets over Arizona.

She also wanted to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed U.S. Army Air Corps’ all-black combat unit that served during World War II. All of the planes owned by the Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum have red tails, just like the planes flown by the Tuskegee Airmen.

“They left such a great legacy. I had big shoes to fill,” she said. “All they wanted to do was to be patriots for this country. They were told no, that they were stupid, that they didn’t have cognitive development to fly planes. They didn’t listen. They just did what they wanted to do.

Each stop was not designed just to rest and to refuel. Kimberly met with and was encouraged by 50 other surviving Tuskegee Airmen in cities with Tuskegee Airmen Inc. chapters. Her presence helped to publicize and to remind Americans of the exploits of these men. At each stop, the Airmen would also autograph Kimberly’s Cessna.

“That way they can fly with us forever,” said Robin Petgrave, the museum’s founder.

~ by blksista on July 13, 2009.

One Response to “Kimberly Anyadike, 15, Becomes Youngest Af-Am Woman to Fly Across the U.S.”

  1. I love that she is so aware of the Tuskegee Airmen. Their combat record speaks for itself, but what really moves me is knowing they had faith that this country was worth fighting for, that it had the potential to live up to its promises. They had something to prove, but they also helped secure my liberty and that of all of us.

    I was at the Oshkosh air show (biggest in the world) in 2007, and wanted to meet some of the Tuskegee airmen there, but they were so mobbed I never had the chance.


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