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Chicago Teen Flying Solo Cross Country To Learn More About Black Pilots During WWII

Chicago Teen Flying Solo Cross Country To Learn More About Black Pilots During WWII

He plans to travel to seven HBCUs! 

A Chicago teen is flying solo across the country to learn more about African American pilots during World War II at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), CBS News reports.

Zaire Horton first learned to fly a motor glider at 14-years-old, getting interested in aviation through his high school, Dunbar Vocational Career Academy.

“My freshman year high school at Dunbar. I guess there was an aviation program that started the same year I was a freshman and I never even heard about aviation, never knew that it was a thing…At first, I didn’t actually think I would learn this stuff because I thought it was going to be complicated,” Zaire recalled.

Dunbar has a four-year aviation program started in the 1950s by Cornelius Coffey, a pioneer in Chicago aviation. By week three of his class, Zaire was hooked and his instructor Umberto Ricco took him flying. When Zaire turned 15, he was already able to fly solo, and now at 16, he has his private glider pilot license. 

“When I had control of [the plane], it felt good,” Zaire told reporters.

Recently, the teen decided he wanted to learn more about the Black pilots who flew during World War II, making a plan to travel across the country to seven different HBCUs that were involved or teaching Black pilots how to fly during that time. 

“Most people don’t realize that Tuskegee wasn’t the only university or HBCU that was training pilots for World War II,” explained Zaire.

While audacious and adorable, he’s still a teen and his mom, Yolanda Sandifar-Horton, was hesitant about allowing him to fly alone at first. She said she changed her mind when she saw him flying in action. 

“When I saw a video that he sent me while he was flying from Florida to Illinois, the look on his face, he was so confident and he was at ease. That was peace of mind. That’s all I needed to see,” said Sandifar-Horton. 

Zaire hopes he inspires other young people to get out there and try something new and really just explore life. 

“In Chicago, you don’t really hear too much about people flying just like me, I didn’t know,” he said. 

Congratulations, Zaire! The sky is truly limitless for you!

Photo Courtesy of Dunbar Vocational Career Academy/Facebook