July 22, 2011 - Firsts Around the World

On this day in 1933, Wiley Post became the first person to fly solo around the world.
On this day in 1983, Dick Smith became the first person to fly a helicopter solo around the world.
And on this day in 1989, Tony Aliengena, age 11, became the youngest pilot to fly around the world.

Wiley Post's around-the-world flight took just 7 days and 19 hours, beating his own world's record for speed around the world (which previous feat he accomplished with a navigator on board). Post stopped three times for repairs to his autopilot, once to replace his airscrew, and three more stops, presumably for refueling and rest and refreshment!

When Post arrived at the airfield in New York that he had left a week before, he was greeted by a crowd of fifty thousand cheering people!

Dick Smith, an Australian entrepreneur, took his time making his solo round-the world flight, but in so doing managed to honor the early aviation pioneers. Smith took off from an airfield in Texas in August of 1982, and his journey across the Atlantic ended on the 50th anniversary of James Mollison's solo crossing of the same ocean. Once he arrived in his native Australia, Smith took more than half a year off. When he resumed his journey, he deliberately timed his arrival back in Texas to be the 50th anniversary of Wiley Post's solo feat.

Dick Smith is one of those guys who has the desire and the means to do grand round-the-world gestures. He has also flown around the world “vertically,” stopping off at both the North and South Poles, and a few years ago he and his wife completed a two-and-a-half-year drive around the world via wheeled vehicle. I assume the car spent some time on ferry boats?

Tony Aliengena's round-the-world flight began and ended very near me, at John Wayne Airport, Orange County, California. It took seven weeks. When at a stopping place in Alaska, just a few days before the ending of the trip, Aliengena's father took the controls of the small plane and loaded too many people into the plane to go somewhere for a fishing trip. He flipped the plane and crashed it! So then Mr. Aliengena had to go find another plane so his son could continue the world-record feat.

It looks to me like this particular round-the-world adventure was being pushed on the fourth grader by his publicity-seeking dad. Apparently the FAA no longer allows youngest pilot feats—which means Tony Aliengena's world record may stand for a long time!

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