Matt Guthmiller set up a Guinness World Record for the youngest person to fly around the world, solo. He was just 19 years old when he achieved this feat and used a 1981 Bonanza A36.
Most important is that Matt had the an adventure which is second to none.
So what all it takes for a 19 year old pilot to achieve this feat?
The story began in 2013 when he heard about the ambition of a 20 year old pilot from California to try and become the youngest pilot to fly solo around-the-world.
Matt reasoned that if someone can do it than he could do it too. He showed this article to his friends and parents stating that this is what he will do this summer. As expected, he received lot of sarcastic ‘sures’.
Matt’s determination was strong and he started his work on how he can make it possible.
Matt only had 250 flying hours in his logbook. Soon the South Dakota native found out that it will take considerable preparation to undertake such a journey.
For the next one year, Matt read everything he can about oceanic and international flying. He talked with numerous ferry pilot and others who made same kind of trip. He also looked for people who can handle various logistical aspects such as landing permits, overflight and handling or ensuring the flight.
Fortunately, Matt did all his flight training with instructors whose main purpose were 135 charter ops. They had the ability to fly in almost any kind of weather. Even though Matt only had a few hundred hours of flying experience, it had been in pretty diverse conditions. To make a world trip, all he needed to do was to have learn how to fly in other countries and that of oceanic operations.
Finding an Aircraft
Matt Guthmiller searched for nearly nine months to find someone who can lease an aircraft to a 19 year old with less than 500 hours flying experience to fly around the world. His search ended when he found Mike Borden in San Deigo, who was the owner of a big maintenance shop, High Performance Aircraft.
To make the deal, Matt had to convince Mike that he is properly trained to fly. Mike had a couple of Bonanzas that were leased regularly and he was willing to consider this option. The deal was finally made.
On May 31, 2014 he took off from Gillespie Field (KSEE) in El Cajon, California and on July 14, 2014 he landed back.
Matt’s flight across the world involved 23 stoppage on five continents in 15 countries. He flew for 177.2 hours and covered 30,000 miles during which he also crossed three oceans.
The route flown by Matt Guthmiller was according the availability of avgas and it is for this reason it was quite zigzag.
What About Money?
Matt created a message to get brands on board for sponsorships and worked on how to publicize them properly to get a worthy result. There was no shortage of people who were of the view that he will not be able to accomplish this feat in one go or in a safe manner.
He wanted to show that regardless of how big a problem is, it can be solved by breaking it down into smaller pieces. He partnered with a non-profit organization called Code.org, which promoted computer science education programs in K-12 schools. The trip was used to promote computer science education across the globe.
The Flight Experience and Learning
Leaving aside the good part of flying. It is better to take a look at the bad ones.
In one of the episode, while refueling in Abu Dhabi, the guys there brought in one barrel of diesel engine oil along with three barrels of avgas.
Matt noticed this thing only when he was pumping the gas in one of the ferry tanks. The next 10 hours were spent in nearly 100 degrees of temperature to pump out everything from that tank.
The other challenges faced by Matt include:
Slow internet connection which made flight planning difficult
Some countries require to file a flight plan six hours before the flight
To get an overflight permit number he had to show up at 3 am
Not to forget several hours of immigration, customs, fueling and security rigmarole
And yes of course the weather of different countries
Matt Guthmiller learned many lessons from his epic flight. Having a plan is good, but you may come across situations when you will have to throw that plan out of the window and figure out things again.
When you have to fly for 10 to 16 hours in one go, particularly over the ocean, you need to watch out for the weather. Many countries outside of US, southern Canada, Europe and parts of Australia do not have very specific weather forecast. There are places where weather was updated only once in an hour and ATC doesn’t have the latest information.
On many of his 12 hour flight, Matt encountered a storm system halfway in his path. This only made the flight longer by several hundred miles to fly around that storm. He often used to have only limited information and he worked his way along only by accurate guess.
There were many places where GA is not common and controllers don’t understand the flying limitation of a Bonanza and difference it has with commercial airliners. In many cases, Matt didn’t asked for permissions from ATC, but he told what his intentions were.
Have a good grasp of flying fundamentals is important to complete such a challenging flight. When you don’t have specific forecast, you will have to work on big picture and combine it with what is visible outside and work out on how things can turn out. It is also important to understand the capabilities and limitations of your aircraft.
The Flying Bird – Bonanza
The around-the-world trip in Bonanza and flying it for 177.2 hours, Matt Guthmiller admires the versatility of this aircraft.
Bonanza can clock 175 knots on the airspeed indicator almost till the time you enter pattern altitude, due to the fact that it is easy to slow it down. It has enough room to accommodate five souls and bags. Anything that can get in an SUV can fit in this aircraft.
To prepare the aircraft for the trip, the back seats were replaced with an HF radio and two 105 gallon ferry tanks. During his heaviest flight from Samoa to Hawaii, Matt was having 299 gallons of fuel in his aircraft.
Before that this Marathon flight, the owner of the aircraft upgraded it with:
Garmin GTX 33ES transponder with ADS-B
Garmin GSR56 integrated sat-phone / worldwide data link weather
Garmin GDL 69A XM weather
dual Garmin GTN 750s
Garmin G500 with Mid-Continent digital standby instruments
and Garmin GTS 800 active traffic system
The timed out old engine was also replaced with a new one.
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