Ryan Campbell lands world solo-flight record

By Natsumi Penberthy 9 September 2013
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Nineteen-year-old Ryan Campbell has become the youngest person to fly solo around the world.

AFTER LANDING EXPERTLY at Illawarra Regional Airport on Saturday 19-year-old Ryan Campbell is now the youngest person to fly a single-engine aircraft solo around the world.

The flight looks to have well and truly pipped the Guinness World Record set by 21-year-old American Jack Wiegand earlier this year.

Ryan’s landing marked the end of a 44,448km (24,000 nautical miles) trip sponsored by the Australian Geographic Society.

Ryan first took off in his little Cirrus SR22, the Spirit of the Sapphire Coast, at the end of June. To make it around the planet in 70 days the teen flew 32 stretches and touched down in 15 countries.

He arrived at his final stop, roughly 85km south of Sydney, on 7 September 2013. His small plane touched down on the tarmac at roughly 10am and he alighted to the cheers of hundreds of supporters, many from the aviation community.

Continuing the tradition of innovative Aussie aviation

When the composed teenager addressed the crowd he gave special thanks to inspirational aviators Ken Evers and Dick Smith for their moral support. Ryan, who became Australia’s youngest pilot aged 15, says there were a few hairy weather moments coming into Hawaii – his longest leg – and Iceland. “Those were situations that I just didn’t want to be in but that was just part and parcel of the trip.”

“He’s always been really focused and committed in whatever he put his mind to, which is why – I think – he’s had so much success,” Ryan’s mother Joanne told AG after the formalities.

Many helped to get solo-flight record over the line

Ryan comes from a big family who have been the foundations of his effort. He is the youngest of three boys – all of whom fly – and on his mother’s side alone he has 18 cousins and another half-a-dozen or so on his father Lindsay’s side too, says Joanne. His family’s history with aviation also stretches right back to his father’s father, who flew with aviation legend Charles Kingsford Smith in Smith’s barnstorming days.

The hardest moment for Ryan’s family says older brother Chris was a more than 13-hour Pacific Ocean flight from Hawaii to Californian. With only a 15-hour fuel capacity in his plane, his family’s lives all stopped to listen in for news of his landing.

“The deal when he first asked was that, yes we would support him, but I needed to be in the Northern Hemisphere when he crossed the Pacific,” says Joanne. “At least on the same side of the world.”

Inspiring future pilots

Now that he’s glided through those rough moments Ryan would like to support kids keen to get their wings. Indeed while he was speaking to AG a group of young cadets in blue uniforms aged 8-15 formed a line behind us to say hello.

“I can’t wait to get something off the ground next year,” says Ryan.

“We have a big issue about getting young kids into flying. To have kids out here on the tarmac is rare – due to airport security. If we can get the support, we’ll try and get a project off the ground about getting young kids into aviation. And, not just flying,” he says, “but also any dream that they thought was impossible”.

Australian Geographiccongratulates Ryan on an incredible feat, and we’re sure we’ll be seeing more of the young high-flyer in the future.