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17-year-old teenager becomes one of the youngest licensed Black pilots in the US

Most teenagers who are aged 17 years old are just figuring out what they want to do with their lives.

But there are some teenagers who not just know what they want but are actually well on their way to achieving their goals.


Christopher Ballinger from Washington D.C. is a teenager who knows what he wants and sets out to get it. The 17-year-old is making history as he becomes one of the youngest Black pilots in the country.

The big achievement is all thanks to an Air Force JROTC Flight Academy Program. The program is an 8-week summer aviation school conducted at partnering universities all across the United States. Once a student successfully completes the program, they are awarded a Private Pilot’s Certification. It has been created to get young people excited about a career in aviation.

With this certification, Ballinger is now licensed to fly any single-engine land plane. This is his first step toward becoming a fully licensed pilot. The eight-week flight program he took part in was at Walla Walla University in Washington State.

The program is a collaboration between the aerospace industry and the Air Force to address the nationwide pilot shortage and is equivalent to a $25,000 scholarship.

Ballinger is a rising senior at the Sidwell Friends School and has big plans for his future. He wants to apply to the Air Force Academy after graduation.

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.

We wish Christopher Ballinger the best of luck with his future in aviation! We are sure the young man will achieve great things!

Share Christopher’s inspirational journey to being a pilot at just the tender age of seventeen!




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