Southern California

Teen Pilot From Compton Returns to SoCal After Record-Setting Flight

Isaiah Cooper, 16, is the youngest African American pilot to complete the cross-country flight

A teenage pilot from Compton arrived home in Southern California on Monday, capping a flight across the nation in preparation for what he hopes will be a record-setting around-the-world trip.

Isaiah Cooper, 16, touched down at Compton airport after a roughly two-week flight around the country, becoming the youngest African American pilot to complete the cross-country flight. A flight instructor accompanied him.

Cooper's 8,000-mile flight was not without difficulty. Bad weather forced him to make a hard landing that heavily damaged his original plane in Wyoming.

"He was able to execute the emergency procedures flawlessly, got it on the road, landed, didn't damage the houses, the schools, the construction crew, nothing. I mean, he got out of that thing safely," said flight instructor Robin Petgrave.

But Cooper has a much larger goal. He hopes next year to become the youngest black pilot to fly around the world solo. He will be 18 years old when he takes off on the planned flight.

The Guinness World Record is held by Matt Guthmiller of South Dakota,
who was 19 when he circumnavigated the globe on his own in 2014, ending his
voyage at Gillespie Field in El Cajon.

On a GoFundMe page, Cooper wrote that he began attending the youth
aviation program at Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum in Compton when he was 5, but he dropped out when he began spending time "with the wrong crowd" and doing "seriously self-destructive things."

He said he hopes his attempt to break a world record will inspire other kids to turn their lives around and work to achieve their goals.

"There's a higher power that's always there trying to have you focused so whatever you want to do, you can do it. Just put your mind to it," Cooper said.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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