Sept. 24, 2014

Record-breaking pilot Barrington Irving launched his Flying Classroom endeavor, a first-of-its-kind, interactive STEM+ learning adventure, at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on Sept. 23. But before embarking on his nine-week expedition spanning three continents, he implored the more than 600 area students who came to see him off to follow their own dreams.

“No matter what anyone tells you… anything is possible,” said the famed aviator, who rose from humble beginnings to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world. “I didn’t have much, but I had education. Every single person in this room has a brain to do something amazing with their lives.”

Irving’s Flying Classroom will visit North America, Asia, Indonesia and Australia, exploring real-life applications of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, history, geography and humanities – areas referred to as STEM+ when taught with the use of new technology – through 16 expeditions. Irving will pilot Inspiration III, a business jet provided by Executive Air Services. Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc. is providing complete trip logistics.

The event, hosted at the Signature Flight Support hangar with support from the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, included remarks by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden; FAA Chief Operating Officer Teri Bristol; Universal’s Lex den Herder; Executive Aircraft Services’ Fabio Alexander; and others, but it was Irving who drew the loudest cheers and applause for his inspirational story.

He told the students to take time and speak with the more than a dozen organizations, associations and companies exhibiting at the event, including NBAA, and learn about all the opportunities a career in aviation has to offer.

“You may meet someone who totally changes your life,” Irving said.

The hundreds of students, some as young as third graders, took his advice to heart and crowded around the exhibitor tables. In between collecting bags, pins, keychains, hats, water bottles, paper gliders and more, the students learned about the varied career choices that aviation has to offer.

NBAA Specialist, Operations Peter Korns, who was in attendance, said students who came to the Association’s table clamored for the No Plane No Gain hats, airplane paper clips and aviator sunglasses, but also wanted to learn more about what business aviation was and what sorts of jobs it included.

“They were genuinely interested and asked thoughtful questions,” he said. “These students are engaged and already planning for their futures.”

Shelly Simi, Jeppesen’s industry and public affairs strategist, said her company is a sponsor of the Flying Classroom, and she thinks it’s important to take part in events surrounding the endeavor.

“Barrington Irving gives back to the whole industry. He creates vision for these children to see their futures in aviation, and he’s doing it with a business jet,” she said. “We’re committed to ensuring a strong future for the industry.”

For educators who attended the event, such as Angela Benjamin, coordinator of the SciMaTech Academy at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, DC, the Flying Classroom kickoff provided an opportunity to show her students the real-world applications of what they learn in the classroom.

“My kids are really excited to be here,” Benjamin said, adding she was eager to pick up learning materials to bring back to her aerospace engineering class.

“I think this will be a good experience,” said Marsdon Lambert, 14, from Washington, DC’s Phelps High School’s Academy of Engineering. “Today’s a chance to learn some stuff and see some cool things.”

Irving has a long history of supporting aviation career events, including NBAA’s Careers in Business Aviation Day held annually at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition. View a video from Irving’s appearance at NBAA2012 in Orlando, FL.

Learn more about the Flying Classroom and follow Irving’s journey around the world.