Photo Credit: Photo By Anthony Duran
D.C. Teenager Becomes One Of The Youngest Licensed Black Pilots In The Country
If there’s anything we love, it’s seeing Black folks win. The story of Christopher Ballinger, a 17- year-old pilot from Washington D.C., is a welcome departure from a depressing news cycle.
Ballinger is turning heads not just for his aviation achievements, but his unshakable focus. He studied for eight weeks as part of the Flight Academy program at Walla Walla University in Washington state. Now, he can fly any single- engine land plane.
Ballinger encourages others to keep an open mind and focus on their goals, whether in aviation or elsewhere.
The teenager has his eyes on the Air Force, which is working on improving its diversity. WUSA9 notes that “minorities represent less than 12% of all Air Force pilots.”
The Root reports “Air Force leaders have signed off on a new plan to build a more diverse pilot corps by 2030; looking to level the playing field in a profession that remains dominated by white men. The strategy aims to grow opportunities for minorities in some of the Air Force’s premier professions; including manned and unmanned aircraft pilots, air battle managers, and combat systems officers.”
The minimum age to earn your private pilot license is 17. According to WUSA9, Ballinger recently celebrated his 17th lap around the sun.
To combat the nationwide pilot shortage, the aerospace industry and the Air Force joined forces to create the Air Force Junior ROTC Flight Academy program. It’s rigorous and demands discipline from all participants. Ballinger and his peers had to rise at 4:30 AM some mornings to get ahead of the winds. But this didn’t deter him from his goals at all.
“This has been a phenomenal experience for me all the way around, but it has been intense,” Ballinger said. “We wake up at 6 AM; some mornings at 4:30 AM. to get ahead of the winds to fly six days a week.”
There’s also hours of ground school and plenty of tests, but Ballinger says it was all worth it.
WUSA9 states, “Ballinger will enter his freshman year of college with his Private Pilot License (PPL) after he completes his instrument checkride with a FAA medical examiner Wednesday.”