Teen pilot completes cross-country trek

July 12, 2009 at 1:22 PM
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LOS ANGELES, July 12 (UPI) -- A teenager believed to be the youngest African-American female to pilot an airplane solo across the United States has been welcomed home, witnesses say.

Cheering crowds greeted Kimberly Anyadike, 15, at Compton Woodley Airport Saturday as she landed her single-engine Cessna aircraft after a 13-day trek, during which she was accompanied by an adult safety pilot and navigator, Levi Thornhill, 87, who served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Saying said her motivation wasn't to gain celebrity or set a record, Anyadike told the Times.

"I wanted to inspire other kids to really believe in themselves" and honor the Tuskegee Airmen, the U.S. Army Air Corps' pioneering all-black combat unit, she said.

"They left such a great legacy," she said. "I had big shoes to fill. All they wanted to do was to be patriots for this country. They were told no, that they were stupid, that they didn't have cognitive development to fly planes. They didn't listen. They just did what they wanted to do."

The newspaper said Anyadike's Cessna is owned by Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum in Compton, where she learned to fly through lessons offered to at-risk youths.

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