Moore County Airport welcomed Capt. Barrington Irving to Moore County on Feb 1st as part of the airport’s support for educational programs focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Capt. Irving arrived at the airport in his sporty Mitsubishi MU-2 turboprop and was greeted by Greg Hudson, airport Executive Director, and Barry Lerman, of the Airport Authority. He then participated in a regional meeting of STEM educators at the Pinehurst resort where more than 400 teachers and administrators met for four days, discussing ways to incorporate STEM themes into school curriculum.
At a small reception at the airport on Wednesday evening, he said “The only thing that separates today’s kids from CEOs in corner offices or scientists in labs is a passion for what you want to achieve. The only person who can stop you from doing something great is you.”
The secret, he believes, is having a dream in the first place. For many kids, that starts with powerful learning experiences that inspire kids to pursue careers—particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math.
“Kids want to be challenged, but today too many are bored and uninspired,” Capt. Irving said. “I want to use aviation to excite and empower a new generation to become scientists, engineers, and explorers.”
STEM Programs in Moore County Schools
The Moore County Schools have made integrating STEM teaching into the educational process a key strategic goal. Moore County Airport, acting as a science laboratory focused on aviation, is supporting these programs with the local public and private schools in Moore County.
STEM teaching is more than just a fad or a curiosity. In today’s world, technology means computers and smartphones, but it goes further: to “green” transportation, renewable sources of energy, better medical treatments, and almost all of the answers to the problems that challenge the world today. Understanding STEM processes is a fundamental requirement for success in the modern world.
In the future, almost all the best jobs will be STEM based. In 2009, the United States Department of Labor reported that eight of the ten most wanted jobs required degrees in STEM fields. The career fields with the highest median wages and fastest wage growth are all STEM fields. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while others are lagging behind at 9%. STEM related jobs can be financially rewarding careers for our children.
The Moore County school system has 13 technical experts who are incorporating STEM themes into every aspect of the school programs, and at all age levels. The annual STEM Summer Camp in June 2017 will be built around an aviation theme, and the Moore County Airport is assisting with technical resources and introductory airplane flights.
Around the World Flight
Capt. Irving knows a lot about the importance linking great teaching with opportunities. He was raised in Miami’s inner city, surrounded by crime, poverty and failing schools. But he beat the odds to become a pilot. To follow his dream, Irving turned down a full football scholarship and instead washed airplanes to earn money for flight school. Eventually, he became the youngest person to fly solo around the world, and he did it in an airplane be built himself.
Capt. Irving’s around-the-world flight was an enormous undertaking. According to his web site, it took 97 days, 26 stops, and flights around dozens of thunderstorms, monsoons, snowstorms, and sandstorms before he touched down to a roaring crowd in Miami.
“Stepping from the plane, it wasn’t all the fanfare that changed my life. It was seeing so many young people watching and listening. I had no money, but I was determined to give back with my time, knowledge, and experience.” He has been doing it ever since.
Irving’s nonprofit, Experience Aviation, aims to boost the numbers of youth in aviation and other science and math related careers. Middle and high school students attend summer and after-school programs tackling hands-on robotics projects, flight simulator challenges, and field trips to major industries and corporations. In his ‘Build and Soar’ program, 60 students from failing schools built an airplane from scratch in just ten weeks and then watched Irving pilot it into the clouds.
The Moore County Airport was established in 1929 when the Tufts family, famous for their Pinehurst Resort, opened a dirt runway and named it “Knollwood Airport.” In 1935 the county acquired the facility. During World War II, the airport was leased to the Army Air Corps and was called Knollwood Army Auxiliary Airfield.
Today the airport offers a 6,500 foot runway and is equipped with state-of-the-art instrument approaches and lighting for use in inclement weather. There are about 90 hangar spaces and a flight school. About 6,000 planes land or depart from the airport annually.