A business jet, a virtual classroom, powered by students’ minds.

By Andrew Rasner, National Geographic Intern

That’s how Barrington Irving, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who at 23 became the youngest person to fly around the world, describes his newest project, The Flying Classroom. This fall, Irving is making another transcontinental trip, stopping at more than 30 locations across North America, Asia, and Australia as students from across the country follow along in their classrooms.

NG Explorer, Barrington Irving launches his Flying Classroom expedition at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. September 30, 2014

NG Explorer Barrington Irving launches his Flying Classroom expedition at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. on September 30, 2014

To see them go through that transition and realize their potential—it’s priceless.

The project kicked off on September 30 at Reagan National Airport, where Irving spoke to a crowd of more than 600 students, encouraging them to take advantage of their education and leverage it as a gateway to accomplishing extraordinary things. Speaking about his impoverished upbringing, Irving said that he never thought he was smart enough to fly an airplane. Now a world-renowned pilot and engineer, Irving wants to inspire kids to pursue careers in STEM fields and to believe that they are smart enough to accomplish their dreams. And trust us, his story inspires.

Piloting a Hawker 400XP dubbed the Inspiration III, Irving will fly to 16 locations to showcase scientists, engineers, and explorers at work. On his itinerary are stops at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon, where Irving will showcase the technology behind shoe design, and in Shanghai, China, to see how engineers are pushing skyscraper design into the 21st century. Classrooms around the country will follow Irving’s journey, watching videos of his encounters and participating in a specially designed curriculum to accompany the expedition.

And this trip is just the beginning. Over the next three school years, Irving will pilot the Inspiration III on more Flying Classroom expeditions, and plans to take his educational mission to every continent. On his inspiration for using his talents to inspire students, Irving says: “To see them go through that transition and realize their potential—it’s priceless.”

The Inspiration III shortly after landing to launch the Flying Classroom expedition at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. September 30, 2014

The Inspiration III shortly after landing to launch the Flying Classroom expedition at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. September 30, 2014


Teachers’ Toolkit

Real-World Geography: Pilot and Engineer: Barrington Irving

NG Live! Teaching from the Skies

Even more activities and cool facts about flight!

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