Teen makes youngest round-the-world solo flight

By Natsumi Penberthy 17 July 2014
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An American has beaten Aussie Ryan Campbell’s record to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world.

AN AMERICAN TEENAGER has beaten Australian Ryan Campbell’s record to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world. Ryan was 2013’s Australian Geographic Society Young Adventurer of the Year.

Nineteen-year-old Matt Guthmiller from South Dakota in the USA completed the more-than-46,600km, six-week journey in a single-engine aeroplane on Monday night.

“It was really exciting to be back. [But] it feels weird to not have some exotic location to fly to in a couple of days,’’ he told the Boston Globe newspaper on Tuesday. “It’s been a lot of work but a lot of fun and interesting places and people to meet.”

When Matt touched down at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, California, he was just 10 days younger than Ryan was when he set his record last year.

After two years of dreaming and planning, it looks like Matt landed just in the nick of time. 

Record-breaking aviation challenge

Ryan, who also became Australia’s youngest pilot when he was 15, was cheerful about being toppled, saying his year of holding the record was, “actually, probably the longest it’s been held for a while.”

“A guy called Barrington Irving became the youngest person by quite a bit in 2007,” he says, “and he inspired me, and many others.”

Matthew will be the fourth person to take this record since September 2012. 

“I think it’s fantastic,” Ryan says. “I think the case with anyone who’s done it, we want to see other people do it safely and I think Matthew has.”

Matthew Guthmiller’s solo journey

Matthew’s flight began on 31 May in El Cajon, with his final 16-hour leg taking him from Honolulu over the Pacific Ocean to California on Monday. En route, his small plane landed in 23 different cities, including Rome, Cairo, Kuala Lumpar, Manila and Darwin. 

“I definitely watched his tracker on the long legs,” says Ryan, “which was a bit weird because I know people were doing that for me.” He also handed out advice via email when the young flier approached him prior to departing.

“I tried to pass on the feeling of spending a lot of time in the air and making a lot of decisions every day,” Ryan says.

But, he cautions: “The more people that do it, the easier it looks, and the truth is it’s not.”

Although the nineteen-year-old American touched down in Darwin and Brisbane briefly, the two young fliers haven’t met in person yet. 

Matthew, a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was greeted upon landing in El Cajon by a crowd including reporters and his mother. 

Matthew Guthmiller’s flight path (Credit: Limitless Horizons/Google).


Ryan Campbell’s book on his life of flying, Born to fly is being launched by Harlequin Books next week.