Kim Anyadike: “The Sky is No Longer the Limit”
Kim Anyadike has always set her sights above and beyond the ordinary. As just a freshman in high school, she set a world record as the youngest African-American pilot to fly across the United States. Since then she has continued to speak up for the same causes she advocated for with her record-breaking flight, including raising support and awareness for at-risk children in Compton, California, where she learned to fly. She’s also passionate about honoring her heroes, the Tuskegee Airmen, through her incredible flights. Now enthusiastically bound for UCLA this fall and with further piloting plans in the works, Kimberly is currently a finalist in Seventeen Magazine’s “Pretty Amazing” Contest. The Pretty Amazing Contest recognizes exceptional girls like Kim. The winner of the contest will be featured on the cover of Seventeen and receive a scholarship. Kim talked with Teen Voices about her beginnings as a pilot, her motivation, and her message.
Teen Voices (TV): You started flying at age twelve. What sparked your interest in flying? Did you know anything about piloting planes before you started?
Kim Anyadike (KA): I’ve always been interested in the idea of flying. When I was younger, my brother and I would go on top of the roof. We would watch the planes go over our house and my brother would tell me that if I jump high enough maybe I could touch them. When I was 12 years old my mom read an article about Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum and this 14-year-old boy who set a world record by flying a helicopter and a plane on the same day. And I thought, “Well, if he can do it, I can do it too!” So I went to Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum and I took a demo flight. I’ve been hooked on flying ever since.
TV: Could you describe what that first experience as a beginner pilot was like?
KA: It was really awesome. Not only was it my first chance in the pilot seat, but it was my first time flying in a plane, period. The adrenaline rush was crazy. After I got back down from flying, I was jumping off the walls! It was completely different than being on the ground. It’s like nothing I’ve ever tried before.
TV: You recently became the youngest African-American pilot to fly across the United States. What inspired you to undertake that project?
KA: At Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, I learned about the amazing Tuskegee Airmen, who were a group of African-American fighter pilots who flew for our Air Force in World War II as well as the Vietnam War. I never heard about this group when I was going to school. I was 15 at the time, and I thought, “They are completely unrecognized.” With all the amazing stuff that they’ve done, I felt like I had to do something. So I decided to dedicate my flight in their honor. Cross-countries are defined as a 25-nautical-mile flight, and I thought, “Well, I don’t just want to do 25 miles! I might as well just fly across the country!” So I planned the flight for a couple months, from Compton to Newport News, Virginia and back. I ended up stopping in more than 40 places. It was a 13-day flight. I met so many Tuskegee Airmen, it was amazing! I was advocating for at-risk youth. In Compton, California, there’s a lot of downbeat stereotypes about children who are predicted to grow up to be gang-bangers.
I would also like to give all the honor and glory to God for giving me the strength and motivation to be able to accomplish the feat. Without Him, I am nothing—I would not have been able to successfully plan and follow through with my world-record breaking flight.
A lot of people think that they can’t amount to anything. I just want them to know that they can dream big and fulfill their dreams if they want to. Nothing can stop you, because the sky’s no longer the limit.
KA: A couple days before I planned on setting my world record, there was this Texas politician who said, “Oh, I don’t think this can be done. I don’t think this little girl should be trying to do this because she just can’t do it.” After I flew over a little part of the Atlantic Ocean, I thought about him in the back of my mind, and I thought, “What now?” Also, on the way back home, flying into the west, I saw some really great sunsets. Something that was really unexpected was that on July 2nd, 2009, I was awarded a day in Tuskegee, Alabama. That day is Kimberly Anyadike Day in Tuskegee, Alabama.
TV: Was it unusual for someone to start flying so young? Did you encounter any other comments about how young you were or the fact that you were a girl?
KA: When I first started flying, a lot of my instructors were male, and some of them wouldn’t completely trust me to have the controls. While you’re flying, the instructor’s supposed to pass off the controls to you. Sometimes the instructors would say, “OK, now you have the controls.” I’d try to start turning or start a maneuver, and I’d look over, and they’d still have their hands or feet on the controls. And I’d say, “OK, I’ve got this. Ok, really, I’ve got this.” It took them a little while to completely trust me, whereas I know with guys who would be flying at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, they would progress in the program a little bit faster.
TV: Was that difficult to deal with? Do you feel like you just kind of took it in stride?
KA: I think I just kind of took it in stride. On one hand I thought, “Oh that’s so cool that they’re going so fast—they got their license, they got to solo at this age!” And then, in the back of my mind, I’d think, “Ah, this isn’t fair! I could have gone as fast through the program as they did.” But I feel like you can achieve whatever you want. One thing I always think about is what the Tuskegee Airman would do. They had to fight a war at home as well as abroad. When I think about how much they progressed and how much they were able to do regardless of how many people told them they couldn’t, I’m just in awe. I’d think, “I don’t even have as many odds against me as they did against them, so I can do whatever I set my heart to.”
TV: What were your experiences in high school like, since you were so busy flying? Were you involved in other things as well? Or was flying the majority of your time?
KA: I had several hobbies. I was vice president of my graduating class this year, and I also enjoy traveling and giving back to the community. I’ve taken several dance classes, from ballet to African dance. I hike a lot and I do some surfing. I like being busy. I really don’t like being bored. I like having a plan.
TV: So what are your future plans as a pilot? Do you have any new goals or records you want to break?
KA: You’ll have to wait and see. I am planning something very soon, but it’s still a secret.:)
TV: So after this record-breaking flight, you were featured on news programs and you’re a finalist in Seventeen magazine’s “Pretty Amazing” Contest. What’s it been like having this publicity?
KA: It’s been really exciting and kind of overwhelming. I set my world record when I was in ninth grade, and I started doing a lot of traveling immediately after that to speak to children and organizations. But I think it’s really amazing that people are interested in my story. I’ve heard other people’s stories and gotten inspired. And when I tell my story, people get inspired, so I feel like if they hear my story and get inspired, then why not continue to tell it? That really makes me feel special.
TV: Do you have any advice for teens looking to get involved with new or unusual activities like flying?
KA: I think that everyone could benefit from an increase in confidence, because when you’re confident in yourself and you believe that you can do anything, you’ll also benefit from an increase in positivity, and you’ll have an overall better outlook on life. I always think to myself: “What people think about you is none of your business, because people are always going to have something to say that’s negative, and as long as you believe in yourself and know that you can do whatever you set your heart to do, then you’re good to go.”
Check out Kimberly’s profile video for Seventeen’s Pretty Amazing Contest at http://www.seventeen.com/video/pretty-amazing-finalist-kim-a-video-1665773573001. The winner will be featured on the October cover of Seventeen and will receive a $20,000 scholarship. You can vote for Kim and read more at http://www.seventeen.com/fun/articles/pretty-amazing-voting
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