HOUSTON -- Two stops before completing his record-setting, around-the-world flight, Barrington Irving glided into Houston on Saturday with a message for the about 50 students who cheered his arrival.
"I think this shows it doesn't matter where you come from, what you have or what you don't have," Irving said, a few minutes after exiting his single-engine Columbia 400.
The 23-year-old aerospace student, who built his plane from more than $300,000 in donated parts, took off from Miami on March 23 hoping to become the youngest person and first Black pilot to fly solo around the globe. He had planned to fly last year, but a lack of funding delayed his $1 million project. He's since received support from a variety of corporate and other sponsors.
Irving plans to arrive back at Opa-locka Executive Airport on Wednesday after a final stop in Alabama. His journey in recent days has taken him from Juneau, Alaska, to Seattle to Denver, where he departed Saturday morning.
His plane is dotted with stickers of small flags of several of the countries he visited, including Spain, Italy, Greece and Japan. His 21,000-mile trip included stops in Cleveland and New York before passing into Canada, then crossing the Atlantic, through Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
He said the most difficult part of the trip was weather, which delayed some legs, and keeping his mind occupied during the long flights. Landing small planes in some foreign countries, he said, can be a challenge but he managed with the help of a savvy ground crew.
"There were some very tough times due to weather," Irving said. "There were times I was very frustrated."
Irving was born in Jamaica and grew up in Miami. He said he saw little chance for success until he met a Jamaican-American pilot at his parents' Christian bookstore.
The pilot, Gary Robinson, took Irving to see a Boeing 777. The 15-year-old was mesmerized. He turned down college football scholarships to become a pilot.
Irving is now studying at Florida Memorial University; he has private and commercial pilot licenses. He also founded Experience Aviation, a Miami-based organization that encourages minority youths to pursue aviation careers.
He plans to turn his attention in earnest back to the organization when he gets home. He said a book and documentary are likely in the not-too-distant future as well as other projects.
"I have a lot of great ideas," Irving said with a smile.
--The Associated Press