Cross-country flier makes stop here on historic flight
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on July 3, 2009 1:46 PM
Fifteen-year-old pilot Kimberly Anydike, left, stands in front of her plane with Levi Thornhill, an 85-year-old Tuskeegee Airman, and her flight instructor Ronell Norman. Miss Anydike, who began her transcontinental flight in California, is flying across the country to honor the World War II pilots.
An unusual flight crew stopped for the night at the Goldsboro-Wayne Municipal Airport Thursday while on one of many legs of an historic trip from Compton, Calif., to Newport News, Va.
Their plane, a single-engine prop with a red tail, settled gently onto the runway, fuselage gleaming in the last sunlight of the day. Places on the nose and tail covered in bold strokes of ink marked the small craft as something special.
The pilot allowed her passenger to disembark first, and Levi Thornhill, an 85-year-old Tuskeegee airman, slid out from behind the front seat with the ease of long, though long-ago, familiarity.
And then 15-year-old Los Angeles native Kimberly Anyadike, believed to be the youngest African-American female to pilot a plane transcontientally, stepped down to wait as the airport workers set up the refueling equipment.
Miss Anyadike and her brother and sister learned to fly with the help of Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum, which provides scholarships and school programs for young aspiring pilots and at-risk youth in exchange for volunteer and service hours donated to the community. And having earned her wings, the high school student decided to put them to good use by traveling cross-country with Thornhill, making stops along the way to visit with other members of the famed Tuskeegee Airmen.
She is even collecting their signatures on the plane, painted with a red tail in honor of the historic airmen's dedication and sacrifice, and plans to stop by Washington, D.C. to personally thank the president.
"The idea behind it is we wanted to do something that would keep the young people involved," Thornhill said. "Mostly we want them to stay in school."
Kimberley's older sister, Kelly, set a world record in 2006 when she became the youngest African-American girl to fly solo in four different aircraft on the same day. And Miss Anyadike herself has been flying since she was 12.
"Sometimes it gets a little tiring," she said about their long flights from Texas to Georgia, and then onward to South Carolina and Goldsboro.
But she loves to fly, and the view, and the significance of reuniting the Tuskeegee Airmen, more than makes up for it, she said.
"It's really interesting because you don't really realize how beautiful our country is until you're flying over it," Miss Anyadike said.
She and Thornhill and safety pilot Ronell Norman will be taking off again Friday morning to continue the ten-day trip after spending the night in Goldsboro. They plan to be in Washington, D.C. by July 7 before returning home to a celebration in their honor in California on July 25.