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The Emerging Importance of NBAA Career Day

September 10, 2012

NBAA Flight Plan interview with pilot and educator Barrington Irving

Career Day at NBAA2012 will be much more than a field trip.

That’s Barrington Irving’s take. Irving will be the featured speaker at NBAA2012’s Career Day on Nov.1, which is part of the NBAA 65th Annual Meeting & Convention at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. He views it as one of the most important jobs presentations of the entire event.

Barrington Irving“We have a looming problem,” Irving said from his home in Miami, FL. “We’re not getting enough young people involved to become industry leaders and to take aviation innovation to the next level.”

Irving knows a thing or two about innovation and risk-taking. A Jamaican-born immigrant to the United States, he grew up in a tough inner-city Miami neighborhood. To hear him tell it, Irving had little direction in his life until an airline pilot walked into his parents’ bookstore and invited him to the airport. When Irving accepted the offer and sat in a cockpit for the first time at age 15, he fell in love with aviation.

A promising football player, Irving turned down a full athletic scholarship to the University of Florida. Instead, he attended community college and washed planes for money to take flying lessons. Eventually, he earned a scholarship to Florida Memorial University, where his hard work and dedication took him to the head of his class and he graduated magna cum laude.

At 23, Irving raised money for a solo flight around the world. He flew more than 30,000 miles in 97 days in an aircraft he named Inspiration, without radar or anti-icing and with just $30 in his pocket. He became the youngest man – and the first African-American – to circumnavigate the globe.

Irving’s journey was indeed an inspiration. It led Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America to create its “Dream & Soar: Youth in Aviation” philanthropy program, making Irving its ambassador. Irving dedicated his life to educating and inspiring children worldwide. His “Build and Soar” summer program enlisted 60 school children in Miami to build an airplane from a kit in just 10 weeks. Irving then made good on his promise to fly it.

Now 28, the National Geographic Society has named him an “Emerging Explorer.”

So when Barrington Irving talks about inspiring young people, he has a track record of doing so himself. 

To attract the next generation of professionals essential to aviation, he said, companies must realize they are competing for the interest of a generation that is growing up with social media, video games and extreme sports. In other words, he said, these kids are hard to impress.

“Companies have to do something more to spark the interest of these young people,” said Irving.

Catching and holding young people’s attention is one thing, Irving said. Communicating to them in a language they’ll appreciate is another. Even though he graduated high school in 2002, Irving said the ever-increasing speed at which children communicate today makes him feel old before his time. 

“Aviation – especially business aviation – faces a dilemma,” he cautioned. “To attract young people, we need more young people as mentors. But our industry is aging, and those mentor candidates are getting harder to find.”

As the aviation workforce continues to age, Irving suggested, companies will need to find newer and more effective ways of communicating the passion that led many of today’s professionals to look to the sky for their careers.

For more information on NBAA2012’s Career Day, contact NBAA's Sarah Wolf at [email protected].