High Flying, 15-Year-Old Girl Pilots a Plane Coast to Coast

Kimberly Anyadike
Kimberly Anyadike

This July, 15-year-old Kimberly Anyadike finished a record-breaking flight across the country, becoming what is believed to be the youngest African-American female to pilot an airplane from coast to coast. The adventurous teenager flew from Compton Woodley Airport in Compton, CA, to Newport News, VA ,and back, making thirteen stops along the way. Her flight companions were an adult safety pilot and Levi Thornhill, an 87-year-old World War II veteran who flew with the Tuskegee Airmen, an all African-American combat unit in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Part of the reason for Anyadike’s voyage was to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, dozens of whom she met throughout the journey.

Anyadike learned to fly both an airplane and a helicopter at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum in Compton in an after-school program that offers aviation lessons to underprivileged and at-risk youth. The museum owns the plane she flew on this historical trip.

It was Anyadike’s idea to fly cross-country. She knew it would take tremendous preparation, but she felt strongly that she could do it. The Tuskegee Airmen served as further motivation for the high-flying teen.

“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.”‘

Robin Petgrave, the aeronautical museum’s founder tried to temper Anyadike’s enthusiasm. “I told her it was going to be a daunting task but she just said, ‘Put it on. I got big shoulders.’ “

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