Isaiah Cooper, a 16-year-old Compton, Calif. high school student, achieved the first of two record-breaking feats last month. According to flight organizers who planned his first outing, Cooper is the youngest African-American pilot to fly across the United States.
Cooper, a member of Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, made the journey under the tutelage of instructor Robin Petgrave. Petgrave also mentored Kimberly Anyadike, who has been reported to be the youngest Black female pilot to fly cross-country.
The teenage pilot, who joined the aviation program at the museum at the age of 5, said he dropped out the program and began hanging with the wrong crowd. Realizing his potential and dreams, Cooper rejoined the program at 15 and saw his 0.8 grade average return to a very respectable 3.7 in a year’s time.
The journey was not without its dangers as Cooper, accompanied by Petgrave, crash-landed his airplane in Wyoming during a dangerous weather event. Relying on his training, Cooper was able to put the plane down without damage to any of the homes or structures in the region.
With the cross-country journey embedded in his cap, Cooper’s next goal is to become the youngest African-American pilot to fly around the world. His family and supporters will have to wait a while for that achievement as he won’t take on the journey until he turns 18.