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Jul 29 2016
by Hannah Holzer

Isaiah Cooper, 16, Becomes Youngest Black Pilot to Fly Across the U.S.

By Hannah Holzer - Jul 29 2016

Flying over 8,000 miles across the United States, Isaiah Cooper, only 16-years-old, made history as the youngest black pilot a plane across the U.S.

Although a flying instructor was present, Cooper flew the plane himself — a journey which took a little over two weeks. He now has bigger plans to fly solo around the world when he turns 18.

Cooper initially wanted to call off his big journey due to nerves, but was reassured by his mentor Robert Petgrave and decided to go through with the plan.

“It was terrifying. I was really scared, I wanted to give up and go home,” Cooper said to Mic. “But having conversations with Robin and other people, it calmed my nerves and I continued on with the trip.”

The Compton teen experienced bad weather in Wyoming and had to make an emergency landing. After landing, Cooper was hesitant to continue flying, but he switched planes and continued on.

Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM) was where Cooper met his mentor, Petgrave. Cooper co-piloted his first plane at just seven, and first piloted at around 11 or 12.

According to their website, the museum is a “living classroom in South Los Angeles bringing aviation history to life and empowering the dreams of youth to take flight.” Donations to the museum can be contributed here.

TAM helps at-risk Compton teens to get involved in a safe and unique hobby.

“From 12 to 15, I dropped out [of the TAM program] and I was doing pretty bad things,” Cooper told Mic. “My grades were bad, I wasn't doing so good at school, I wasn't doing so good at home. I was just self-destructive basically."

“I wanted a better future for myself [and Petgrave] helped me clean up my act. He told me that if I wanted to do the things that he does, I would have to work hard and leave all the bad stuff alone. From there, he trained me and set me on the world record that I just completed.”

Cooper has started a GoFundMe page accessible here to help fund his dream of flying around the world at 18, which would break the world record of the youngest person to do so.

“Whatever you want to do, you can do it,” Cooper told ABC 7. “Just put your mind to it.” 

Lead Image Credit: ABC 7

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Hannah Holzer - UC Davis

Soon-to-be UC Davis freshman, journalist, film enthusiast & baker extraordinaire.

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