17-year-old has become one of the youngest Black pilots in the US to receive a license

Christopher Ballinger, a 17-year-old from Washington, D.C., is making history by becoming one of the youngest Black pilots in the United States. While most teenagers are still figuring out what they want to do with their lives, Ballinger knows exactly what he wants and is working hard to achieve his dreams.

His major accomplishment is due to the Air Force JROTC Flight Academy Program, an eight-week summer aviation course held at institutions across the country. The program grants a Private Pilot’s Certification to students who successfully complete the curriculum and is designed to encourage young individuals to pursue a career in aviation.

Ballinger, who participated in an eight-week aviation program at Walla Walla University in Washington State, is now qualified to fly any single-engine land aircraft. This certification is the first step on his journey to becoming a fully qualified pilot. The initiative, which is comparable to a $25,000 scholarship, is a partnership between the aerospace industry and the Air Force aimed at addressing the national pilot shortage.

As a rising senior at Sidwell Friends School, Ballinger has ambitious plans for the future. After graduation, he plans to apply to the Air Force Academy. His certification at such a young age puts him ahead of many others his age, and he encourages other teenagers to be aware of new opportunities as well.

Ballinger also passed his instrument check-ride with the FAA medical examiner, and once he receives his Private Pilot License (PPL), he will be able to fly solo. He completed a solo cross-country flight during the program and was one of two cadets in his program who were prepared to do so. Ballinger worked hard during the program, waking up early and studying for hours on end, but he says it was all worth it.

This initiative will also address the issue of diversity in the aviation industry, as currently only 12% of all Air Force pilots are from minority backgrounds. Ballinger’s accomplishment serves as an inspiration for young people of color who are interested in pursuing a career in aviation.

We wish Christopher Ballinger the best of luck in his flying career and are confident that he will achieve great success. His determination and hard work serve as an inspiration to young people everywhere.