Young Pilot Soars into Record Books

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- School is out and most children are enjoying their summer by a pool, at camp, or working a part-time job.

But a 15-year-old from Compton, Calif., is earning a place in the record books -- and honoring the men who first made it possible during World War II.

Kimberly Anyadike inspects her single-engine, Red Tail Cessna before every flight ... but the take-off from this Virginia airport is special.

It's the eighth day of her cross-country journey, and when she lands in Washington D.C., she lands a place in the record books -- as the youngest black female to fly coast to coast.

"I've been underestimated a lot since I am girl. There have been a lot of male instructors who will be like, just sit back and I will do this and I will be like no, watch me. I can do this, you know," Anyadike said.

The soft-spoken, 15-year-old learned to fly at age 12 as a student of Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum in Compton, Calif.     

It's a program Hollywood stunt pilot Robin Petgrave started 12 years ago to curb crime in Compton by giving kids wings to escape -- literally.   

"It feels so great.  Like, the other day when we flew over Chesapeake, I was like, 'Wow!'  I was so overjoyed and I was like, 'Yay!'" Anyadike said.

Kimberly is over-joyed about making history and honoring it.

She dedicated her mission to America's first black military airmen -- the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

"I wanted to show the Tuskegee Airmen that someone still cares, that I admire them," she said.

Kimberly made 11 stops on the journey before landing here in Newport News, Va.  And with every stop, she meets a new round of Tuskegee Airmen. All of whom, stop to sign the plane before she takes off again.

In Newport News, Va., 89-year-old retired Chief Master Seargent Grant Williams adds his signature to the side of the Cessna 172.

"Oh, it is just a fabulous thing when you consider how far we have come.  Especially, when you reflect on what things were like when I was growing up and I was her age," Williams said.

Tuskegee airman Levi Thornhill, 86, has traveled with Kimberly for every mile of the trip.

"She has a wonderful family, which a lot of these kids that we are trying to reach don't have," Thornhill said.

Family adds fuel to Kimberly's mission.

Her 17-year-old sister, Kelly, is the youngest black woman to fly four planes in one day.

"When I set my record last year, she immediately wanted to do something after," Kelly said. "She was like, 'Don't worry Kelly, I am going to beat your record.'"

"Initially, the plan was that I was going to solo four planes and two helicopters in Canada because you can solo when you are 14 and around that time I was 14," Anyadike said.

But at 15  -- and 5-foot-3 -- that adventure was simply too small for the girl who believes the sky is no longer the limit.

Every take-off moves her closer to her dream of being a private pilot and cardiovascular surgeon.

*Originally published July 13, 2009


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CBN News
Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at