MIT freshman will be the youngest person to fly around the world

Matt Guthmiller is planning to fly around the world in a 1991 Bonanza (Boston Globe; Guthmiller’s site), departing May 27. He’ll be around 19 years and seven months old when done, thus becoming the youngest person ever to fly solo around the world. It turns out that Guthmiller is a pilot/renter at East Coast Aero Club (where I am a helicopter/Cirrus instructor) and has flown about 80 hours with us.

Reading about this while halfway through Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Centuryhas me wondering why a rich kid hasn’t crushed this record by more than two years. Here’s how it would work…

  • age 14: build up about 300 hours flying with an instructor in Mom and Dad’s Cirrus SR22
  • age 15: build up an additional 300 hours flying with an instructor in Mom and Dad’s single-engine turboprop, such as a TBM 900
  • age 16: build up an additional 300 hours flying with an instructor in Mom and Dad’s Embraer Phenom 300 (single-pilot certified business jet); do some solo flying in the turboprop
  • two weeks prior to 17th birthday: camp out at CAE in the Phenom 300 sim (at DFW Airport); call up Jeppesen and ask them to make all of the arrangements for a round-the-world trip (New Yorker says that they handle exotic destinations and projects with ease)
  • 17th birthday: take Private airplane single-engine land checkride in the turboprop; take multi-engine land checkride and Phenom 300 type rating checkride in the Phenom 300 sim. Now the teenager has an FAA Private/multi/jet type certificate and can fly an N-registered airplane anywhere in the world.
  • 17th birthday+1: depart on round-the-w0rld trip in Mom and Dad’s Phenom 300 (still air ferry range is about 2200 nautical miles, which means it could do all of the legs in Guthmiller’s planned trip given a west-to-east tailwind or, alternatively, cross the Pacific Ocean between Russian and Alaska).
  • 17th birthday+5: arrive back at DFW reasonably well rested after about 65 hours of sitting in air-conditioned pressurized comfort watching the Garmin autopilot hold altitude and course

What’s wrong with this plan? We have a 900-hour pilot with 300 hours in type doing about 15 takeoffs and landings in a plane that practically flies itself and, more importantly, has an onboard restroom. If he or she gets lonely on the 4- or 5-hour legs and needs to keep in touch with Facebook friends, the Phenom 300 has built-in global Aircell Internet service. He or she can make calls to the Jeppesen dispatchers on the hard-wired Iridium phone and/or call Mom and Dad.

[I spoke with Matt Guthmiller by phone. He says that the organization keeping track of the "youngest circumnavigator" is Guinness Book and they require only that the distance be over 20,000 nautical miles, crossing every meridian. So the above plan with the Phenom 300 would qualify, in Guthmiller's opinion, and the plane could be taken through Russia and Alaska so that the entire trip would be very comfortably within the plane's normal range. The reason that Guthmiller is not going through Alaska is that 100LL gasoline is not available in Russia. Barrels would need to be shipped in ahead of time at a cost of about $50 per gallon.]

5 Comments

  1. Joshua Levinson

    May 24, 2014 @ 11:27 pm

    1

    Off topic, but is it legal to use the lav in-flight when single pilot? It’s something I’ve wondered about for a while.

    § 91.105 Flight crewmembers at stations.
    (a) During takeoff and landing, and while en route, each required flight crewmember shall—
    (1) Be at the crewmember station unless the absence is necessary to perform duties in connection with the operation of the aircraft or in connection with physiological needs; and

    So that seems to allow crewmembers to leave their stations to use a lav, but it doens’t mention anything about there always being a pilot at a set of controls. I suppose 91.13 (“Careless and reckless”) is always there for when the FAA decides they’re going to get you no matter what.

  2. scott masse

    May 24, 2014 @ 11:30 pm

    2

    Phil,

    I like you would have loved to beat this world record.

    It is sad these days that less and less kids will enjoy flying or pursue the career path.

    With all of the Vietnam era pilots retiring, there is going to be a major shortage in the near term. The industry from what I can tell does not offer a good risk/reward profile for aspiring pilots.

    When I started my private pilot lessons in 1998 it was not cheap, but relative to today at least it was feasible.

    Unfortunately, the ultra-wealthy scenario is the only way it would happen or a wealthy donor would have to sponsor a flying whiz kid!

  3. Bas Scheffers

    May 26, 2014 @ 8:11 am

    3

    What’s wrong with this plan is that I doubt any of the Rich Kids of Instagram could be bothered putting this much focus and dedication into something so uncool. (Or anything, really.)

  4. Tom

    May 26, 2014 @ 8:47 am

    4

    You could probably accomplish the same thing with not so rich parents. Suppose they bought a Beech Duke when the kid was almost 16 and started flight training and doing most of the dual instruction for the private, multi-engine, and instrument. The kid then solos at 16 and builds the solo and additional dual training to take the checkride for the ticket at 17 and then heads off on the adventure. The aircraft could be obtained for less than $200K and is pressurized and reasonably fast. With a little more money, you could substitute a King Air C90 if you wanted a turboprop at about $750K. Although these aircraft are not new, most have been upgraded with GPS and full autopilots and also come with a potty. It might take a few more that 5 days for the trip but not much more. Flight instructors are on their way after only a couple hundred hours so how many hours are really required to be able to make such a trip..

  5. Alex

    June 4, 2014 @ 6:02 pm

    5

    I pretty much second what Bas says. Additionally, I think any kid whose parents are rich enough to to fund such an endeavor probably think of pilots as slightly better-dressed taxi drivers, unfortunately.

    For Tom, there’s a good reason why you can get a Duke for less than $200K: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnCT24qod4M

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