Meet Kimberly Anyadike: The Youngest Black Female Pilot To Fly Solo Across U.S At 15

Kimberly Anyadike

Inspired by Jonathan Strickland, who rewrote history as the youngest person to fly a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter solo in a single day, but driven with a picture bigger than self, Kimberly Anyadike, at age 12, decided to follow his footsteps enrolling in an aviation program offered by Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum for disadvantaged youths.

It wasn’t going to come easy for her, she had to pay for flight lessons with “museum dollars” earned by washing airplanes and working odd jobs around the Compton Airport, as well as ensure she maintained a strong academic record as part of the program’s requirements, needless to say, she more than scaled through -despite her fear of heights!

Driven by the desire to inspire others, in 2009, aged 15, Anyadike Kimberly made history as the youngest African American woman to fly across the United States, setting a record with completing a transcontinental flight across the United States, from Los Angeles, California to Newport News, Virginia.

Anyadike during her history-making flight was accompanied by an adult safety pilot, and by a retired Air Force pilot who had served with the WWII Tuskegee Airmen – an honor which will forever remain with her.

During stops at different cities, her plane was autographed by about 50 Tuskegee airmen as she stopped at different cities across the US, she completed the round-trip journey in a single-engine Cessna 172 in 13 days navigating through thunderstorms to scale through.

Despite having a fear of heights, Anyadike says that being in the cockpit of a plane is “an amazing experience”.

She even as part of accolades of achieving the feat got her own day, Mayor Omar Neal proclaimed July 2 – “Kimberly Anyadike Day”.  Upon her arrival home on July 11, 2009, Anyadike received an award from the County of Los Angeles and was personally invited by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to visit the California State Capitol.

In 2015, Anyadike received the first Young Aviator’s Award from the Tuskegee Airmen in recognition of her achievements. A year later in 2016, she graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with an undergraduate degree.

Her remarkable achievement has continually inspired people; In 2017 she was interviewed by Disney Channel during a special Black History Month show, True Heroes Are Timeless.

Pilot Kimberly Anyadike, in 2018, aged 23, was invited to speak at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at West Covina Civic Center, she gave a stirring speech, charging others to go after their dreams regardless of race.

She graduated with her undergraduate degree from UCLA in June 2016 where she had majored in physiological science with minors in African-American studies and Spanish.

Kimberly Anyadike, born in Compton, California in 1994, to Nigerian Igbo parents who relocated to the U.S. the youngest of three children, held strong interests in medical science and anatomy; her mother who was quick to catch up on her interest taught her to identify and name all 206 bones in the body. Anyadike later attended science classes at the Charles Drew University Saturday Science Academy, an L.A.-based STEM subjects program for youth ranging in age from preschool to grade 12.

Anyadike, is inspired by her older sister, Kelly who also took aviation lessons at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum – In 2008, on her sixteenth birthday, Kelly became the youngest African-American woman to pilot four different fixed-wing aircraft in a single day. In interviews, Anyadike has said that a friendly rivalry with Kelly helped inspire her to complete her piloting achievements.

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