Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
Writes Daily News reporter Tracey Miller in 2009, our YG&B feature this week, “departed with a dream and returned home a record breaker.”
Although dated, this newly resurfaced account needs to be cited in this series for its historical significance and for the value of its magnificent accomplishment on its own merit.
She is young, gifted and Black. Kimberly Anyadike, then 15 in 2009, became the youngest African American female to pilot a plane cross country.
But according to Miller, Kimberly is thought to be the youngest in the nation, regardless of race or gender as noted in Mingle City on July 15, 2009, to fly across the United States.
Although no start date is recorded in any post reviewed, it is believed that she took off from Compton, California in a single engine Cessna around June 29, 2009 to Newport News, Virginia,, arriving back home in Lost Angeles on Saturday, July 11. Flying over 23 cities, the fl ight took 13 days to complete the journey according to Miller.
She stopped in 4 different states along the eastbound leg of the trip to meet surviving Tuskegee Airman members, 50 of which signed her small Cessna in prideful appreciation of her efforts.
As cited in Mingle City, many of the Tuskegee Airmen “were glad to see the legacy of African American pilots continuing into the next generation.”
The tail of the plane was painted red in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen who she helped to honor.
“They left such a great legacy. I had big shoes to fill,” she says in Mingle.
She further notes of the World War II U.S. Army Corps all-Black combat fighting unit in Daily News that, “all they wanted to do was to be patriots for this country.
They were told ‘No!’ They were stupid, that they didn’t have the cognitive development to fly planes. The Black pilot didn’t listen. They just did what they wanted to do.”
Joining Kimberly on this historic journey was her safety pilot, 87-year-old Levi Thornhill, one of the Tuskegee Airman during World War II.
Our cross-country aviator learned to fl y at the age of 12 through the Compton based Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM) according to the July 15, 2009 Indianapolis Recorder.
TAM offers aviation lessons in an after-school program for disadvantaged youth.
It was their plane that she piloted.
According to the Mingle City writing, “TAM is also a shining example of Black people doing for themselves.
Founder, Jamaican- American Robin Petgrave started the program to inspire youth to keep them off the streets and away from exploitation as noted in the Mingle post.
Among TAM supporters are the Association of Black Pilots and the Tuskegee Airman Chapter in LA.
Kimberly came up with the idea for the cross county flight on her own said Petgrave in the Recorder.
“I told her that it would be a daunting task, but she just said, ‘Put it on. I got big shoulders,’”
Born in Los Angeles in 1994, Kimberly never remembers a time in her fifteen years that she did not have an interest in flying as revealed in a TAM bio post.
Her passion for aviation began with a 20-minute TAM demo flight. She washed airplanes and performed other task to earn “museum dollars” that she would trade for flight lessons.
Several Tuskegee Airmen were flight instructors and mentors in the program.
Kimberly was a junior lifeguard at Venice Beach for five years where she also learned how to surf.
She studied ballet, hiphop and tap at the Lula Washington Dance Academy and served as an active youth member at her church where she learned how to read music.
The then 15-year-old additionally took on lessons on the piano, violin and on the guitar.
Most recently reveals her bio, she has completed college courses at Los Angeles Technical College, the Saturday Science Academy at Charles Drew University and is taking a range of art classes at the Plaza De La Raza.
She volunteers to feed the homeless in downtown Los Angeles and remains very active in her church. She attends a university in the Los Angeles area with her sights on a career goal to become a cardiovascular surgeon – with a pilot’s license.
Kimberly is not the first young Black pilot out to TAM profiled in an YG&B series. Featured on February 25, 2012 was Jonathan Strickland who set 6 world aviation records at the age of 16.
On March 15, 2008, he would become the youngest Black pilot to solo six fixed-wing airplanes and one helicopter. Jonathan 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.
He established two new world records that Saturday at L.A.’s Compton Woodly Airport.
Jonathan 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.
In 2010 at the age of 18, Jonathan would stand among the ranks of the world’s youngest commercial airline pilots.
He would hold the title of First Officer at the United Express in California, piloting a Bombardier CRS 700 jetliner.