A Compton teen has become the youngest black pilot to fly around the country.
Isaiah Cooper, 16, made history when he landed in his hometown on Monday, July 18 after a 8,000-mile flight flying from California to Maine, Washington, Florida and back to Compton-Woodley Airport.
Just two days into his roughly two-week journey, however, Cooper called his flight instructor and mentor Robin Petgrave to tell him he was ready to give up, according to NBC LA.
“It was terrifying. I was really scared, I wanted to give up and go home,” Cooper told Mic. “But having conversations with Robin and other people, it calmed my nerves and I continued on with the trip.”
He encountered bad weather while in Wyoming which damaged his original plane and forced him to make an emergency landing and switch planes.
Petgrove praised Cooper for overcoming and finishing his flight.
“It’s kinda cool when you see a kid that comes to you with this idea and this dream and then you help them to realize it,” Petgrave told Mic. “Especially when you have your setbacks like he did when Mother Nature challenged him and he had to execute emergency procedures.”
Cooper’s recent voyage is just the start for the record-breaking teen. Next year after his 18th birthday, Cooper said he plans on becoming the youngest pilot to make a solo flight around the world, a record currently held by Matt Guthmiller who made the trip when he was 19.
The teen started a GoFundMe page to help fund his around-the-world trip. His goal is to raise $45,000.
He also notes, on his fundraising page, that he enrolled in an aviation youth program at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, an organization that gives at-risk youth the opportunity to become pilots, when he was 5 years old. He admitted that he dropped out and fell into the wrong crowd during his early years of adolescence, but returned thanks to the help of Petgrave.
He wrote that his goal is “to become a productive young man with a future in aviation, and not a statistic.”
Cooper also offered some motivational words to others, especially young people who aren’t usually afforded these kind of opportunities.
“There’s a higher power that’s always there trying to have you focused so whatever you want to do, you can do it,” he told NBC LA. “Just put your mind to it.”