Teen Becomes Youngest African-American to Fly Across the Continental US

By Sherley Boursiquot
Sherley Boursiquot
Sherley Boursiquot
July 19, 2016 Updated: July 19, 2016

Isaiah Cooper aims to set a world record, and he’s made a good start.

Cooper of Compton, California, made history on July 18 by becoming the youngest African-American to pilot an airplane over the continental United States.

Cooper, 16, started his journey on July 5 and traveled more than 8,000 miles.  He flew from Compton to Maine to Washington to Florida and back to Compton.

During his air time, he suffered some difficulties, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.

While flying through Cheyenne, Wyoming, Cooper faced violent wind shear, which forced him to make a hard landing. He then needed to switch planes.

“He was able to execute the emergency procedures flawlessly, got it on the road, landed, didn’t damage the houses, the schools, the construction crew, nothing. I mean, he got out of that thing safely,” flight instructor Robin Petgrave, who accompanied Cooper, told  NBC Los Angeles.  

After switching planes, Isaiah proceeded with his journey; 11 days later, he landed at the Compton-Woodley Airport.  

Cooper attended an aviation youth program in Compton at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM) when he was 5 years old. 

When he got older, he began “hanging with the wrong crowd, doing seriously self-destructive things,” Isaiah wrote in a Go Fund Me post. “Realizing that this was not how I wanted to live my life, I returned to TAM. My main goal is to become a productive young man with a future in aviation, and not a statistic.”

At 18, Cooper plans to fly solo around the world, he said, adding that his flight two weeks ago was a “practice flight” to help prepare him for a record breaking flight called to challenge the Guinness World Record.

The Guinness World Record is held by Matt Guthmiller of South Dakota, who flew around the world in 2014 at the age of 19. He ended his journey at Gillespie Field in El Cajon.