Fly Boy Collecting Signatures on Scroll While Awaiting Repairs to Plane
BOSTON (AP) _ An 11-year-old hoping to become the youngest pilot to fly around the world plans to use some down time today to collect signatures from Massachusetts schoolchildren while awaiting repairs to his single-engine plane.
Tony Aliengena, the precocious aviator from Southern California who gives new meaning to the term ″fly boy,″ has been gathering signatures at every stop since he set out on the trip June 5. He plans to present the 800-foot scroll of signatures to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev later this month.
Tony and his family arrived in Lawrence on Saturday from Washington, but the autopilot mechanism on his Cessna 210 Centurion gave out during the flight.
The result will be a short delay, giving Tony time to meet with students from Frost Elementary School in Lawrence while repairs are made, said his father, Gary Aliengena.
″We’re about to leave the civilized world as we know it and head north, so we need an autopilot,″ he said.
The itinerary for the journey, dubbed Friendship Flight ’89, originally called for the pint-sized pilot to fly today to Canada, then on to Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland before entering Soviet air space June 23.
The Aliengenas now expect to leave the United States on Tuesday morning.
The boy and two other pilots following him in small planes have hit some rough weather since setting out from California a week earlier. But they are most worried about the upcoming leg of the trip, crossing the icy North Atlantic from Canada to Scandinavia.
Gary Aliengena, a real estate investor and devoted pilot who taught his son to fly while the boy sat on his lap, has enlarged the plane’s fuel tank to extend its range to 1,500 miles from 900. He also made Tony go through a water survival course and is carrying wet suits and flares in the aircraft.
Tony has already collected more than 200,000 signatures on the scroll. Some signers have appended short messages and drawings. ″Let’s spend more time making friends than weapons,″ wrote a girl in St. Louis.
The boy is being accompanied by his parents; 10-year-old sister, Alaina; two Soviet journalists; an independent filmmaker; an observer from the National Aeronautic Association; a public relations coordinator; and Tony’s 11-year-old Russian pen pal, Roman Tcheremnykh of Moscow.