After Overcoming His Own Fears, a Black Pilot Now Teaches Kids How to Fly the Friendly Skies

An African-American pilot is looking to take underserved youth to new heights with his unique enrichment program for young people.

Entrepreneur Raymond Smith was once among the 6.5 percent of Americans who struggle with fear of flying, better known as aviophobia. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 25 percent of Americans also have flight anxiety.

Raymond Smith

Pilot Raymond Smith is in the process of raising money to buy a small aircraft to offset the costs of his program, ensuring that it remains free for kids. (Facebook / Rep Unyc)

Smith found himself gripped by this very fear until an unpredictable career change forced him out of his comfort zone and into the cockpit of an aircraft, Black Enterprise reported. Now, the local businessman is working to give this same opportunity to inner-city youths via his nonprofit agency R.E.P. (Redefining, Empowering and Preparing) U NYC.

“Flying is something that’s usually reserved for the super wealthy and privileged,” Smith said. “And although I’ve encountered some stumbling blocks along the way, I’ve had the privilege of receiving my certificate and want to pay it forward by offering this opportunity to kids that might be interested in learning how to fly or just receiving flight experience.”

“Therefore, I’m thoroughly looking forward to teaching aviation to the youth and giving them access to an industry where they can choose to do it either recreationally or as a profession,” he added.

After getting over his own fear, Smith took the first steps to becoming a pilot, which included going on two “discovery flights,” an introductory course that shows how a plane works and what the aviation experience is like aboard a small, general aircraft.

The entrepreneur admitted he was scared “sh-tless” the first time he flew.

“But through it all, I started the process of looking for flight schools to start training,” he told Black Enterprise. “After … seeing pilots at work, I thought to myself. ‘I can do this.'”

Months later, Smith would go on to earn his private pilot license from Moyer Aviation in Pennsylvania. From then, he knew he wanted to teach kids to overcome their fears, just like he had, and learn how to fly. He said the inspiration for what is now his program came from a conversation he had with one of his fraternity brothers.

My frat brother “said my idea was bigger than I originally imagined it,” he recalled. “He heard about all the hurdles of flight school and how expensive it is, and because of my passion I should be the one to start something to make it easier for kids who don’t have any type of access to this.”

Since then, Smith has been able to take 10 children to new heights and is now fundraising in hopes of expanding his unique program. His GoFundMe page, which has raised $2,500 in donations so far, explains his efforts.

“For my goal, I’m asking for your assistance in raising $150,000 towards the purchase of a Cessna Skyhawk 172,” it reads. “The total price of the airplane to jumpstart the process of acquiring the plane and to help minimize the cost of the free flights being offered. Aircraft rentals to introduce children to flying will run a lot higher over several years as opposed to owning an aircraft outright.”

Once he gets the equipment he needs, Smith has pledged “to volunteer my time to take underprivileged children aged 3 yrs to 16yrs on FREE discovery flights.” The entrepreneur said he also plans to continue his youth enrichment through R.E.P. U NYC.

“People in our communities often only go on a commercial flight a handful of times. And very few think they can fly an airplane in their lifetime,” he told Black Enterprise. “Flying on a bright sunny day is a euphoric feeling everyone should experience.”

Watch more in the video below.


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