MIAMI – "Here's some metal. Here's some rivets. Construct a plane."
That's how 16-year-old Deshorn King remembers hearing the initial instructions he and 59 other Miami-area teenagers received on Day 1 of their summer vacation. The students applied and were accepted to participate in an aviation program for teens provided by Experience Aviation.
|VIDEO: Pilot's promise - If teens build it, he'll fly it|
Mission: Build an airplane.
Time allotted: 10 weeks.
Experience required: None.
Of course, all aspects of the plane construction were supervised, but the learning curve was steep.
"Electronics, avionics, basically the whole nine yards within one week," said King.
Novices in the world of aviation were soon talking about rivets, horizontal stabilizers, fuel tanks, engines. They were wearing safety glasses while handling drills, paints and rivet guns. As days turned into weeks, dreams became reality.
Their mentor was 24-year old Barrington Irving, who made history in 2007 by becoming the youngest person ever, as well as the first black pilot, to fly solo around the world in his plane called "Inspiration." He founded Experience Aviation to inspire young people to identify and pursue their dreams, as he has done.
|VIDEO: Pilot's promise: students build it, he'll fly it|
"You challenge these students and they can do it. These kids want to be challenged," said Irving.
And they rose to the challenge and built a plane called Inspiration II.
"I'm very proud. I never thought we'd get the opportunity to do something like this," said 18-year-old Rayshwan Jones, who spent her summer working on fuel tanks and wings.
The morning of the first flight was windy. After some concern over whether it was too windy to do the test flight of Inspiration II, clearance was given. Irving and safety pilot Juan Vega closed the top and started the engine of the student-made plane.
They taxied out, and when the plane finally lifted off, cheers from adoring students filled the airfield.
Dressed in flight suits – girls in red and boys in blue – they marveled at what they'd created.
|Stephanie Himango/ NBC News|
|Sixty students participated in the program to build Inspiration II, and dressed in personal flight suits on the day of mentor Barrington Irving's test-flight on Oct. 15, 2008 in Opa Locka, FL.|
"It's unbelievable. I can't believe we just did that," King said, overwhelmed with pride for himself and his fellow students. "Just look at everybody and just smile and say congratulations! You accomplished something in life, something big!"
For about 10 minutes, heads were turned skyward, trying to follow the path of the small white plane against blue skies and billowy clouds. Once the plane touched down and eventually taxied slowly toward the crowd, Irving emerged wearing an expression of elation and relief.
"It was a great ride," he said breathlessly as he stood up on the wing. "Flew smooth – a little bit windy and turbulent and stuff – it flew real well."
The plane was surrounded by students. "I'm very proud of the kids. You guys are the best, man, I love you!"
To which they replied with chants: "Let's go, Barrington, let's go! Let's go, Barrington, let's go!"
|Stephanie Himango / NBC News|
|Pilot Barrington Irving poses for a photograph with two of his Experience Aviation students. Oct. 15. Opa Locka, FL|
They cheered for him like a hero, but it's clear Irving sees heroes in them. "I did the easy part of flying it, and you know what, they did the challenging part of applying themselves and focusing to do something as challenging as building an aircraft in 10 weeks," said Irving.
A sense of satisfaction was evident on the face of every teenager present.
"It was very fulfilling," said 18-year-old Sakina Simpson. "You can go home and say mom, look what I have done."