There is no age limit to achieving your dreams! No matter how big or small, you are the master of your destiny! When it comes to changing the face of pilots, 17-year-old high school student Christopher Ballinger is doing that. He is among the youngest Black pilots in the country, thanks to an Air Force JROTC Flight Academy Program.
According to Fox 5, Chris confirmed he’s licensed to fly any single-engine land plane, which is the first step in becoming a pilot. Christopher participated in an eight-week Flight Academy program at Walla Walla University in Washington State. According to the university’s website, they offer three aviation degree options. In the program, students will learn how to fly, operate safely, and interact in the world of professional aviation.
In addition, students will be at the controls and learn firsthand the challenges and rewards of operating aircraft. Christopher, a rising senior at Sidwell Friends School, has a bright future. The teen plans to apply to the Air Force Academy after graduation. He offered some advice for younger students interested in following in his footsteps, saying to keep an open mind about all opportunities that present themselves!
After his certification at such a young age puts him ahead of the curve of a lot of people his age, he is advising other people his age to be mindful of new opportunities too.
He will get this Private Pilot License (PPL) after he completes his instrument check-ride with the FAA medical examiner. The minimum age for the license is 17 years old, which Ballinger meets.
During the program, he completed a solo cross-country flight. He was one of the two cadets ready to do so in his program. He worked incredibly hard during the program, and all his hard work paid off.
“This has been a phenomenal experience for me all the way around, but it has been intense,” he said. “We wake up at 6 a.m., some mornings at 4:30 a.m. to get ahead of the winds to fly six days a week, hours and hours of ground school, studying to pass all the tests, but it’s so worth it.”
The program also aims to address the issue of diversity in the aviation industry since currently, only 12% of all Air Force pilots are from minority backgrounds.