Boy Pilot Takes Off on Last Leg of World Tour
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) _ An 11-year-old boy successfully finished his bid Saturday to become the youngest pilot to circle the globe, landing safely at home after a trip that took him across the far reaches of the Soviet Union.
Tony Aliengena touched down under bright, hazy skies at about 2:30 p.m. and turned off the engine of his plane at Orange County’s John Wayne International Airport, where he started his ″Friendship Flight ’89″ seven weeks and 19,000 miles ago.
″I want to meet President Bush and talk with my parents and see if they will take me to Disneyland,″ the boy said after landing.
Flight observer Gunter Hagen, who accompanied the boy during the entire flight, said he will submit his records to the National Aeronautic Association in Washington, D.C., which sanctions flight records.
Hagen said he will recommend the group create a new category for youngest pilot to fly around the world and grant Tony that status.
Aliengena’s father Gary, who accompanied his son on the flight, emerged from the plane and then lifted his son from the aircraft, along with his sister Alaina, 10, and Tony’s Soviet pen pal, Roman Tcheremnykh, 10.
Aliengena earlier Saturday took off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, stopped for refueling in Reno, Nev., and then headed for Orange County.
The pilot and his entourage decided to skip a stop at Oakland, Calif., because of a delay in Alaska that put them a day behind schedule, said Bob Combie in Seattle, a spokesman for the boy.
″They are all glad to be back in the lower 48,″ Combie said.
The final leg was to be about 1,300 miles, he said.
After he arrived in Seattle Friday night, Tony said that when he gets home he wants to ride his bike for a while ″and then I’d like to meet President Bush, maybe.″
The fourth-grader flew a borrowed single-engine plane to Sea-Tac from Juneau, Alaska, along with his flight-instructor father, Gary, his mother, Susan, 10-year-old sister Alaina, and the rest of his party.
The single-engine Cessna Centurion Tony started with crashed Tuesday while his father was taking off from Golovin, Alaska, 90 miles from Nome, for a fishing side trip. No one was seriously hurt.
That crash, which is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, was the only sour note on the 19,000-mile trip with 35 stops in seven countries, Tony said Friday night.
″I really liked the Soviet Union, especially Moscow,″ he said. ″I also liked Boston because that’s where all my relatives are.″
Tony and his party, a second plane carrying some of them, made 14 stops in the Soviet Union alone.
Tony said aviation will always be just a hobby. ″I want to be an orthopedic surgeon,″ he said.
He plans to visit the White House to see President Bush and present him with the Friendship Scroll, which is more than 1,000 feet long and contains more than 200,000 signatures of U.S. children.