Since I started flying again, all the old dreams about traversing the earth meeting people and experiencing different cultures while not crashing or losing an engine over the Atlantic are back. I hope to one day purchase a single engine aircraft with sufficient range to traverse the ocean make an around-the-world flight.
While it does have a hazardous side, I doubt it would be any more hazardous to my health than attempting to pilot a sailboat around the world. In fact, it’s probably a whole lot safer, seeing how technology has progressed. With a GPS (Global Positioning System), a well maintained aircraft, careful pilotage, redundant systems, and lots of meticulous planning I should be safer over the Atlantic than I was rehearsing in downtown Los Angeles a few months ago.. Although that’s not saying much.
The biggest challenge with a round-the-world flight has nothing to do with the flying. It’s mainly the logistics. We take for granted the ability to obtain fuel at any airport in the U.S. But once you leave this country, it’s hit or miss. Some countries don’t let you fly privately at all. And if they do, the bureacracy and price that’s attached to it can be staggering.
When it comes to flying around the world, nobody did it with more style than Dick Rutan. He and Jeana Yeager flew an odd looking plane called Voyager around the world without refueling. May not sound like much, but it had never been done before and it’s not been done since then. For their amazing feat they were awarded the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, the highest non-military award given by the United States. In addition, Voyager is now housed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The around-the-world flight took nine days, and all that time they were stuck inside an aircraft with a cabin no larger than your average bathtub.
Dick’s brother, Burt Rutan, designed a number of pioneering canard-equipped homebuilt planes, including the Long EZ, one of my favorites. It is a composite aircraft with some great aerodynamics. That translates into the ability to fly long distances at fast speeds on very little fuel. Perfect for flying around the world.
Speaking of flying around the world, Dick Rutan and Mike Melvill (who was also a key player in the success of Voyager) are (or were, I’m not quite sure which) planning just such a flight using Long EZ’s. Their routing was:
- Mojave, California to Jacksonville, Florida
- Jacksonville to Belem, Brazil
- Belem, via the Brazilian coastline, to Rio De Janeiro
- Rio, across the Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa
- Durban, South Africa to Gillot, Reunion
- Gillot, across the Indian Ocean to Perth, Australia
- Perth to Alice Springs, to Brisbane
- Sidney to Wellington, New Zealand
- New Zealand, across the Pacific Ocean, via Fiji, Tahiti, Easter Island (Isla de Pascua, Chile), then north to Guayaquil, Ecuador
- From Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands
- Galapagos to Mexico City, Mexico
- and finally back to Mojave.