formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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February 19, 2008 Barrington Irving

The Liberty Gazette
February 19, 2008

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Gary Robinson didn’t know it, but the afternoon he walked into a Christian bookstore in Miami became a turning point in history.

Then-15-year-old Jamaican-born Barrington Irving was helping out in the family bookstore. Living in inner-city Miami, Barrington has said that if you live to age 25, you’re doing well. He wanted a better life, but thought the only way for a young black man to get out of these economic conditions would be through a football scholarship, so he worked hard at football. But one day United Airlines Captain, Gary Robinson, walked in the bookstore and struck up a conversation with him. He invited him to come see the cockpit of the Boeing 777 he flew, and when that happened, a new history began to be written.

The senior pilot, also Jamaican, encouraged Barrington to follow his dreams and soon the youngster was washing planes, working on a flight line, and doing whatever he could to trade or make money for flying lessons. He read every book on flying he could find, practiced on Microsoft Flight Simulator, and studied hard for pilot exams. And when Barrington was offered a football scholarship he turned it down. Instead, this present-day history maker earned a much deserved scholarship to Florida Memorial University, where he earned private, commercial and instructor pilot certificates, and an instrument rating while majoring in aerospace engineering. But that’s not all.

In his senior year last year, at the age of 23, Barrington Irving began setting records. The same young man who once thought he had no choices in life but football, became the youngest person ever to fly around the world–26,800 miles–and the first black person to do so. His ship, a Columbia 400, he dubbed, “Inspiration,” made the trip because of generous donations by aircraft manufacturer Columbia, fuel from Chevron, and various other donors. Economically and socially, the odds were against him. But, as he says, an airplane doesn’t know that.

Linda: Barrington is taking advantage of his youth and encouraging youngsters today. His non-profit organization, called “Experience Aviation,” was created to enrich the lives of others by offering an opportunity that is often thought unachievable. “Kids don’t dream much anymore,” he says, but the best dreamers seem to be elementary school-aged children. So far he estimates he has reached about 250,000 students through his grass-roots efforts.

We and many others tracked Barrington’s flight last year on the Internet and have spoken with his organization about coming to Liberty because we share his passion for aviation, and strive to encourage people to follow their dreams. Barrington is planning a book and a documentary film about his flight, as he continues to pursue his aviation career and reaches out to communities to keep the dream alive.

Because we’re limited in space here, please check out Barrington’s web site, You will be impressed. Till next week, blue skies.

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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