Breaking through the clouds over Central Texas, 43-year-old Barrington Miles looked down from the cockpit of his 1964 Nanchang CJ-6 two-seater airplane flying 5,000 feet up in the air.
“I fly for fun and made a promise that I would never charge anyone to take a flight with me,” said Miles, a pilot and air traffic controller for the Defense Department working at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield. While he lives in Austin and houses his planes in Georgetown, he often flies to Killeen.
Miles routinely rolls his plane over so it is flying upside down at 150 miles per hour. It’s a jaw-dropping experience that causes passengers to shout with joy.
“If someone had told me that I would own two airplanes, be as successful as I am today, and an American citizen, I would think he was making fun of me,” Miles said.
Miles’ family came to the U.S. from Jamaica in 1989 when he was 18 years old to pursue the American dream.
The family of four crammed into a one-bedroom loft in Brooklyn, and Miles’ struggled to complete high school because he didn’t speak English well. Not able to find work or afford to attend college, he only had his green card when he joined the Army despite his mother’s strong objections.
“What I love about America is there is a support system here to help you,” he said.
Trained as an air traffic controller, Miles served eight years in the Army learning the language of pilots and flying.
“I felt like a counselor or a cop when I talked to pilots keeping them calm and safe. I always wondered what it’s like to be up there flying, and that sparked my interest,” Miles said.
After leaving the Army in 1997, he attended Central Texas College’s aviation science program.
“I already knew the language of talking to pilots, so I had to learn how to fly the airplane,” he said.
Miles completed the program in about two months and received his pilot’s license at 27.
“The first plane I bought and still have is a Beechcraft Bonanza. It seats four people and is great to fly,” he said.
Miles used the plane for personal trips and charity events letting people experience the joy of flying.
Then, he flew a friend’s Nanchang CJ-6 and had to have one. In 2008, he bought a restored 1964 Nanchang CJ-6 for $75,000. Originally, these planes were used as trainer airplanes for Chinese pilots.
Miles has flown his rare airplane at local airshows and donates free rides at charity events for nonprofits.
Last year, he gave a ride to a young boy with cancer. Recently, another rider was so inspired by a flight that he joined the Navy and is in flight school. Arlene Delgado, a friend for seven years, has flown with Miles many times and called the experience breathtaking.
“I look out the window going over the clouds and it’s like nothing else I’ve ever seen or felt,” Delgado said.
Miles, an American citizen since 1995, is grateful for everything that this country has allowed him to achieve.
“I’m a part of a great team, and I know the struggle to get here,” Miles said. “I’m thankful for what I have and want to share my passion.”