DC Teenager makes strides in the aviation industry
FROMs james banning at Bessie Coleman, Black pioneers broke down the barriers of aviation to open the doors for generations of diverse pilots to chart paths in space. Among those standing on the shoulders of these pioneers is a 17-year-old Christophe Alexandre Ballinger who recently became one of the youngest licensed pilots in the country, WUSA reported.
The aviation industry has always lacked diversity. Research shows that only 2% of airline pilots are black. The lack of representation has driven a new generation of pilots to reach new heights in the industry. After participating in an eight-week flight academy program led by Air Force Junior ROTC Ballinger, a Washington, D.C. native, became a licensed private pilot, making him one of the youngest individuals in America to achieve this milestone. He once ventured across the country on a solo flight.
Ballinger hopes her journey will inspire others who don’t often see themselves in the industry to pursue a career in aviation. ” It’s freedom. There’s no one else in the air, really. You control the plane. It’s hard work but it’s freedom,” he shared in a statement, according to the outlet. “[I hope] it helps them realize that there is a place for them too and that they can achieve their dreams if they work hard at it. Ballinger aspires to fly in the Air Force.
In recent years, programs have been created to empower young black airmen. New York-based flight school RedTail Flight Academy was cultivated to introduce students from underserved communities to flight. The school is inspired by the heritage of the Tuskegee Airmen. “I think we are bringing a change”, the founder of the academy Glendon Fraser told CBS News. “There’s an awareness issue in downtown and urban areas to know that this particular career is a possibility.”
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