Teen aims for around-world, solo flight record
OSHKOSH, Wisconsin (AP) — A 19-year-old Australian aims to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world and could break a record set just a month ago by a 21-year-old American.
Ryan Campbell left Wollongong, Australia, on June 30 and wants to finish his trip by Sept. 7. He took off a day after Jack Wiegand landed in California, finishing his world flight in 59 days.
A number of young pilots began dreaming of a world record in 2007, when Barrington Irving of the U.S. completed a solo flight at age 23. Wiegand broke a record set in May by James Anthony Tan, of Malaysia, who was just shy of his 22nd birthday.
Wiegand says he has no concerns about giving up his title to Campbell in a few weeks: “Records are meant to be broken.”
The young pilots said they started with dreams of being listed in Guinness World Records but that became less important as they confronted long periods in the air, foul weather and a dangerous ocean.
Campbell’s route placed what many consider the toughest challenge — crossing the Pacific Ocean — up front. Wiegand, who did that leg last, said it was extremely challenging mentally.
“You’re looking at the ocean; you see, ‘OK, there’s water, and that water is deep, and if I land in that water, it’s not going to be a fun time,’” Wiegand said.
He prepared for the worst by ensuring his engine was in good shape, having a raft with him and wearing an immersion suit and life vest during the flight. Wiegand flew a single-engine Mooney Ovation2 GX, which he said has safety features such as anti-icing system along its wings.
Campbell, who is flying a single-engine Cirrus SR22, said he ran into headwinds that slowed him across the Pacific and forced him to reassess whether he would have enough fuel to make it from Hilo, Hawaii, to Van Nuys, California. The trip took more than 14 hours.
“It was hard being in an airplane that long,” Campbell said. “It was hard to be the only one that can make those decisions as to whether you should keep going.”
Wiegand and Campbell worked with companies that planned their routes, provided translators in some countries and helped them deal with customs, fuel suppliers and others.
Campbell said there’s often an expectation that the two will be competitive, but Wiegand has been very supportive and offered the benefit of his experience.
Both pilots said age matters less than experience, but there’s likely a minimum age for a global flight. Campbell said he can’t see anyone attempting a record without at least a private pilot’s license, which has a minimum age of age 17 in Australia, and an instrument rating.
Campbell completed his first solo flight on his 15th birthday, earned his private pilot’s license at 17 and his commercial pilot’s license at 18.
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