Christopher Ballinger is now one of the youngest Black pilots in the nation after completing an Air Force JROTC Flight Academy Program, ABC 7 reports.
Ballinger was selected out of thousands of applicants to participate in the organization’s eight-week program during the summer. “I have had this interest for a while,” said the 17-year-old in an interview. “This was something that was calling for me.”
“I’ve always loved roller coasters, video games and in there you can fly all the time,” said Ballinger. “I think since then, I just loved flying ever since.” While his days in the program started with waking up at 5 a.m., followed by a written and flying test, Ballinger says, “I feel relieved that I actually did it.” Overall, the teen put in roughly 55 hours in the skies throughout the course of the summer. As the D.C. native prepares to head into the school year as a rising senior at Sidwell Friends School, he has dreams of joining the Air Force Academy and ultimately piloting military planes.
As the only Black pilot in the program, Ballinger understands the importance of representation in the field. “When I was actually at the camp, there weren’t any other Black people there,” he explained. As a minority in the program, the teen is now prepared to be a role model for others. His main goal is to let people know that they too can make their wildest dreams come true. For anyone who may be inspired by his journey, Ballinger is encouraging them to “look for any and all opportunities.” “If one shows up, take it because I promise you, it will be worth it,” he expressed. “Even if it doesn’t feel like it in the long run or maybe right after. You will see results.”