BNV BLACK PEARLS: Abner Yonly creates aviation record, makes Africa, Black Americans proud

MONROVIA, Liberia – One day in November, Liberians living across the globe and those back home in the West African country were glued to radio and TV stations and social media waiting to know when their hero would  finally land in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.

The James Spriggs Payne Airport in Monrovia came alive minutes later as a single-engine aircraft hovered over the city with the Maryland-based Liberian-born pilot Abner Yonly flying and trying to land safely.

On that day, Yonly, 37, became the first African to successfully achieve a trailblazing milestone in the aviation industry as he completed a solo flight in a single-engine aircraft from Maryland, where he lives, to Liberia.

Abner Yonly upon landing in Monrovia, Liberia, in November, 2023. Photo credit: Public domain
Abner Yonly upon landing in Monrovia, Liberia, in November, 2023. Photo credit: Public domain

Abner Yonly was born and raised in Liberia. He later fled the civil war that lasted for nearly 15 years to refugee camps in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The young Liberian in search of a better life then moved to the United States, where he pursued aviation studies.

He loves to fly. His record-breaking journey last month began from Maryland, then wound to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the United Kingdom and France before landing in Spain. Yonly then touched down in Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone before landing at Roberts International Airport in Harbel, Liberia, southeast of Monrovia. From there, Yonly navigated to his final stop in Monrovia.

Speaking to a team of journalists upon his arrival, Yonly said he

was not flying to boost his own name but to show the world that a black African could achieve such a milestone.

“It makes me feel proud as a Liberian,” Yonly said. “I went through the civil war and lived in Ivory Coast and Ghana as a refugee. For me, it’s inspirational and historical for me to be famous but I was doing it to represent Liberia and the entire Africa.” 

There were hiccups during the trip too, he said. 

“Leaving from the U.S.A. to Canada it was simple in a sense that you can see the airport … but I spent a week in Canada alone due to the weather,” he said. “All the bigger jets have ice protection but I don’t. So you’ve got to

watch out for what you are doing. You can’t just go up there in the ice. It can be disastrous,” Yonly continued.

According to Yonly, he has less than 600 hours of flying and described the flight as a big feat.

“I flew in different situations I have never been in before,” he said.  I am not a professional and I do not do this for a living,” he said.

“I know there are a lot of professional Liberian pilots out there but if you do not read about them you wouldn’t know,” he continued. “Some are flying for Delta and other airlines, but if you don’t not read history you will not know about them.”

Yonly stressed the need for flight schools in most African countries, especially his native Liberia, in order to familiarize Africans with aviation.

“If you fly over to Ghana, Ivory Coast and other areas they do have flight

schools,” he said.

Countries with poor road networks would benefit, he said. 

Yonly wants more investment into the aviation sector to create more Liberian pilots. 

Liberian Sen. Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence, a senior member of the Liberian legislature and one of two women among 30 seated senators, praised Yonly’s bravery and lauded him for embarking on such a journey.

She congratulated him and said Liberia was proud of him and his


“Abner Yonly landed in Liberia: First Black-Liberian to complete a SOLO transatlantic flight in a single-engine aircraft,” she posted on Facebook. 

“Congratulations Abner, we are proud of you.” 

Several other Liberians took to various social media platforms to congratulate and celebrate Yonly for safely landing in Liberia.

Kula Fofana, a young popular politician, congratulated Yonly and asked him to document his journey for those coming after him.

“Abner Yonly … please document this journey for generations after you.,” she posted. “This is indeed a historic and daring feat. You must be one brave soul. Congratulations on achieving such a milestone of your solo trip across the transatlantic border.”

She continued, “We are very proud of you! Welcome home. Keep inspiring generations of aviators especially Liberians in a sector where they are in extreme minority. Congratulations and a standing ovation for you!”

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