18 year old Nigerian [American Citizen], Kimberly Anyadike is a pilot who holds the record as the first African American teen to fly across the United States. She performed this feat at the neophyte age of 15 in 2009. Anyadike learned to fly at age 12 through the Compton-based Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum [TAM], which offers aviation lessons in an after-school program for disadvantaged youths. The Organisation also encourages youth involvement in aviation as an alternative to drugs, gang violence and other self-destructive activities.
It is run by the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation [The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of African-American pilots who fought in World War II. Formally, they formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Corps (United States Army Air Forces after 20 June 1941). The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. The American military was racially segregated, as was much of the Federal Government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. Despite these adversities, they trained and flew with distinction. All black military pilots who trained in the United States trained at Tuskegee, including five Haitians; the Tuskegee 332nd Fighter Group was the only operational unit, first sent overseas as part of Operation Torch, then seeing action in Sicily and Italy, before being deployed as bomber escorts in Europe, where they were very successful. Wikipedia.com]
Anyadike was inspired by the stories of these airmen, as well as other great pilots like Bessie Coleman, the first African-American airline Pilot, and Mae Jemison, the first African American female to travel in space. So great was her passion that she paid for her flight lessons by working many regular jobs and odd jobs while still maintaining an excellent academic scorecard which was a prerequisite to remain in the program.
Anyadike single-handedly flew from Compton, California to Newport News, Virginia without serious technical support. It took her 13 days to complete the flight and the miles flown were 2,342. The plane used was a Cessna C-172. She was accompanied by safety Pilot Ronnell Norman, a certified commercial Pilot and Major Levi H. Thornhill, a retired U.S. Air Force Pilot who at age 87 is a member of the elite Tuskegee Airmen who served during World War II.
Concerning her cross country trip, Anyadike stated; “”Flying over Texas was the most fun because there were a lot of summer rainstorms. I wasn’t scared—I’m never scared. I just focus. And before every flight, I pray.” She also desires that her accomplishments would inspire other young people and affirm that the sky is no longer the limit!
Anyadike plans to become a cardiovascular surgeon after College, but is still madly in love with piloting. “When I’m flying, I’m in control. I trust myself,” she says. “The sound of the engine, the movement of the propeller—it’s like gravity gets suspended. It’s as if you’re closer to heaven.” Prior to this period, precisely in 2008, Kimberly’s sister, Kelly, had set a world record as “the youngest African-American female to go solo in four different fixed-wing aircraft on the same day.”
Soar on, Kim, fly on Kelly; we hear your message loud and clear: The Sky no longer the limit be. Wisdom does not always belong to the gray of hair or to the wrinkled of skin. And kudos to the Tuskegee Airmen who are leaving a lasting legacy in the hearts and hands of the young. Africa, what are we leaving behind for posterity sake? Where are the Institutions that will nurture the young?
What will you be remembered for?
© 2012 – 2017, Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya. All rights reserved.