Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1983, Barrington Irving spent his childhood in inner-city Miami, where he and his friends found little opportunity or incentive to get off the dangerous streets and pursue a professional career. Barrington was motivated by a strong and loving family, but saw a football scholarship as the only available route to higher education.
At age 15, while working in his parents’ Christian bookstore, he met a Jamaican pilot who took him to the airport to see the cockpit of the Boeing 777 jet he flew for United Airlines. From that moment forward, Barrington aspired to fly and stayed focused on a career in aviation.
While attending Miami Northwestern Senior High School, he continued to work part-time in the bookstore, and as a bagger and cashier in a local grocery store, but spent his free time at a local airport, washing planes and talking to aircraft owners, or learning to fly on Microsoft Flight Simulator software. He studied hard and graduated high school in 2002 with a grade point average of 4.49.
Having turned down football scholarships to college to follow his dream of becoming a professional pilot, Barrington attended Broward Community College for two years, majoring in Aeronautical Science. His tuition there was partly covered by a Florida Bright Future Scholarship based on his high marks in high school.
Though he was still in school himself, Barrington was determined to share his passion for aviation with other inner-city youth. So he began speaking to students and to church and community groups in Miami, where his volunteer efforts were noticed by community leaders. In 2003, they awarded him a joint Air Force/Florida Memorial University Flight Awareness Scholarship that would cover college tuition and flying lessons.
Over the next three years, Barrington continued his volunteer work, excelled in both academic and flight training courses at FMU, and earned his Private, Commercial Pilot, and Certified Flight Instructor licenses as well as his Instrument and Multi-Engine Rating. But as he took to the skies, he was dreaming about a new and more ambitious goal: he wanted to fly around the world to show other youth that there was no limit to what they could achieve. If he made it, he would set two historic aviation records: he would be the first person of African descent and the youngest person ever to fly solo around the globe.
In 2004, unable to find an aircraft manufacturer wiling to loan, lease, or donate a plane he could use to make aviation history, he asked manufacturers of the various plane components to donate one of their individual components to him. When he had secured $300,000 worth of donated aircraft parts, including the engine, tires, and cockpit systems, the aircraft manufacturer Columbia built him the world’s fastest single-engine piston airplane, the Columbia 400.
In 2005, while the plane was being assembled, Barrington founded a nonprofit organization, Experience Aviation, Inc., to introduce inner-city and minority children and youth to careers in aviation and aerospace. With support from corporations, foundations, individuals, and local and state education grants, Barrington and a volunteer staff set up a learning center at Opa-locka Airport in Miami equipped with $70,000 worth of equipment including 10 custom-built Microsoft Flight Simulator Booths. The Center opened in November, 2006 with a celebration that hosted the local Mayor, city commissioners, and school officials.
On March 23rd, 2007, Barrington took off from Miami on a historic flight around the world with stops in Canada, the Azores, Spain, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Dubai, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Japan. He flew solo, with the world watching, in his beloved aircraft appropriately named “Inspiration.”