Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
Eight years ago, a December 11, 2006 Electronic Drum posting reports that our then 14 year-old helicopter and airplane pilot successfully landed a Robinson R44 helicopter at 11:05 A.M. PST at the Compton/Woodley airport, making him the youngest African American pilot to fly a helicopter round trip internationally thus netting him at that time a totally of four world records.
He is young, gifted and Black. Jonathan Strickland then at the age of 18 in 2010 stands among the ranks of the world’s youngest commercial airlines pilot. He holds the title of First Officer at United Express in California, piloting a Bombardier CRS 700 jetliner.
He received his commercial pilot’s license on his 18th birthday and also during this time he earned his rating as a certified flight instructor.
Jonathan is currently attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Long Beach, California majoring in Aviation Business Administration.
He pays for his school tuition as a commercial and private jest instructor for Lear Jet Systems.
According to lead editor Stephen Brown in his Digital Afro account, he has been mentored by members of the Tuskegee Airmen and by Western Airlines’ first African American pilot, Fredrick Pitcher.
Jonathan was additionally groomed, in Brown’s words, “by some of the most distinguished and decorated pilots in aviation history.”
But Jonathan Strickland certainly is no stranger to the Milwaukee Courier newspaper.
This series featured our up and coming aviator two years ago. Headlined “The sky is no longer the limit, six world records set at 16 year old,” YG&B profiled the blossoming pilot on February 25, 2012.
It was at the age of 16 that he would earn his United States validated student solo pilot certificate.
On March 15, 2008, Jonathan would become the youngest Black pilot to solo six fixed-wing airplanes and one helicopter.
As chronicled by Bill Cox in the September 1, 2008 “Plane & Pilot,” our commercial pilot becoming respectively soloed a Robinson R44 helicopter, a Cessna 172RG, a new glass-panel Cessna 172 SP, a Piper Warrior, a Sting Sport LSA and a Remos LSA – all within six hours.
At this then youthful age, Jonathan established two new world records that Saturday at L.A.’s Compton Woodley Airport.
He would become the youngest African American male to solo six different airplanes and a second record for soloing six airplanes plus one helicopter, all on the same day.
This feat, however, actually earned him the two world records that would be added on top of the four that he earned two years earlier.
As recorded in this series, Jonathan at 14, as above noted, carved his name in aviation history in 2006 by soloing a Cessna and a helicopter on the same day.
But to accomplish this goal, he had to travel to Canada where the solo flight age requirement is 14 as opposed to 16 in the United States.
“But Jonathan didn’t mind” as observed in published accounts. “It’s just another excuse to fly,” as quoted on his thoughts of the 32- hour round-trip international journey in a Robinson 44 from Southern California to British Columbia and back. The youthful aviator at that time had to first prove to Canadian instructors that he possessed the skills and knowledge to solo an aircraft.
On Thursday, June 29, he passed both the physical requirement as well as several qualifying written exams.
He first soloed in a Cessna-152 at the Pacific Flying Club at Delta, British Columbia’s Boundary Bay Airport where he scored in the 90 percentile.
He then traveled twenty minutes to Heli-College Canada Training Center at Langley Airport where he made a solo flight in a Robinson R22, marking a 92 percent rating.
This spectacular unprecedented trip came to a successful ending two days and an estimated 1,000 miles later when he landed at Compton Woodley Airport on July 1, 2006 earning him four world records: the youngest person to solo both a helicopter and airplane on the same day; the youngest African American to solo a helicopter; the youngest African American to fly a helicopter internationally, and the youngest African American to fly a helicopter on an international round-trip.
Accompanying Jonathan on his world record international flight was Robin Petgrave, an accomplished helicopter pilot with more than 11,000 hours logged in flying Hollywood stunts, sightseeing tours, flight training and ferry flight for his company, Celebrity Helicopters. Fifteen years ago in 1997, Petgrave founded the Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM) which provides aviation-themed after school programs for more than 800 children in elementary, middle and high school.
The mission of TAM is to encourage youth involvement in aviation as an alternative to drugs, gang violence and other self destructive behavior.
The program requires that students maintain above average grades and stay clean from trouble.
TAM offers the opportunity to work one-on-one with qualified tutors, mentors and aviation staff five days per week.
Petgrave attributes his TAM passion to his association with the Tuskegee Airman, a group of nearly 1,000 Black pilots recruited by the Army during World War II to fly and maintain combat aircraft.
He says that TAM is committed to keeping the legacy of the Tuskegee Airman alive and that through its flight training program, “anything is possible for these kids.
To further cultivate the Tuskegee inspiration, Petgrave incorporates members of the Los Angeles chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen in programs that schedules regular appearances at area schools. Jonathan was a signature student of the TAM training.
In 2009 at the age of 17, he had earned his instrument rating and was introduced to aerobatic flight in a T-34.
He additionally flew a Cessna 172R from Lost Angeles, California to Atlanta, Georgia.
In a sense of speaking, Strickland has been flying since he was 8 year-old.
The passion came early for the Inglewood native. It started with airplane models that his grandfather – an engineer – kept around the house.
As a child, he lived near Los Angeles International Airport and enjoyed watching the air traffic.
As shared in the February series, a pilot friend who flew for Delta took him for a ride in a Cessna 182 when Jonathan was only 8.
He was then “hooked.” He continued to fly the 182 with his friend “whenever he could” as cited in the YG&B account.
What is next for this African American history maker?
His sights are now on becoming the youngest aviator to fly around the world in a Bombardier Learjet.
With six titles under his belt and now being among the world’s youngest commercial airline pilot, there is little doubt that we will see in the near future yet another world record for Jonathan Strickland for whom the sky is no longer the limit.