23-year-old pilot Leona Serao, originally born in the U.S., and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is preparing to set a record in aviation history. She hopes to become the first Black woman to complete a solo flight around the world. If accomplished, she will join 11 other women pilots who have achieved the feat, as documented by Earthrounders, a website that tracks aviation records. As of today, there have been 142 total flights around the world.
According to National Geographic, Barrington Irving, a Jamaican-born American pilot, became the very first Black pilot to fly across the world in 2007. And now, Serao hopes to make her mark on history as well. It has been reported that Irving, who opened his own aviation school, and has mentored six students who completed their own solo flights around the world, reached out to Serao to offer his support, advice and experiences as she prepares for her flight. He shared his comments to Yahoo News, saying, “There is 100% a void of young women seeing other young women who look like them in the field of aviation that they can aspire to.” He went on, “[Serao] will have the attention of so many women, not just Black girls, but so many women, to inspire them. And there’s nothing like being the first.”
Serao’s trip is planned to start in August and will take three months. She will depart from New York, and stop in 33 countries, spanning four continents. You can see her full route on her website, where those who wish to support her journey can learn more about Serao, as well as offer donations to help cover expenses on her journey to becoming the first Black woman to fly across the world. According to the website, the monies collected will be used to help cover fuel, food and lodging along the way. With an investment of $70,000 into her education to become a pilot, it is no easy feat to get to this point.
To talk about the entire experience, she recently sat down for an interview with Yahoo News. She discussed not only why she decided to pursue a career in flying, but also what inspires her to go after the record. In fact, according to her website, if she accomplishes this feat, she will not only be the first Black woman to complete the solo trip, but she will also be the first African woman, the youngest African, and the first Congolese to fly solo around the world.