A 17-year-old Washington, D.C. student is making history as one of the youngest Black pilots in the United States, ABC 7 News reports.
Christopher Ballinger is a rising senior at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. He recently completed an eight-week Air Force Junior ROTC Flight Academy summer program, one of hundreds selected out of thousands of applicants. Upon completion, Christopher officially became a licensed pilot, making history as one of the youngest Black pilots in the country.
“I have had this interest for a while. This was something that was calling for me,” Christopher told reporters.
The program was challenging but the teen said he rose to the occasion because he loves flying and seeing new places. During the program, participants had to wake up at 5 a.m. and complete a written and flying test. Overall, Christopher put in a total of 55 flying hours. Now that he’s finished, he feels a major sense of accomplishment.
“I feel relieved that I actually did it,” he said.
His goal is to eventually join the Air Force Academy before graduating from high school, dreaming of one-day flying military planes. He now joins a league of young students pursuing their pilot’s license early. Another teen in the DC area, Caleb Smith, was recently honored by the Air Force after making history as the youngest private glider pilot in the nation.
Christopher says he hopes his story inspires other students to just go for it and pursue their dreams even when it gets hard.
“Look for any and all opportunities if one shows up, take it because I promise you it will be worth it. Even if it doesn’t feel like it in the long run or maybe right after, you will see some results,” said Christopher.