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Making Dreams a Reality – How I Set Off to Become the Youngest Pilot to Fly Solo Around the World

Making Dreams a Reality – How I Set Off to Become the Youngest Pilot to Fly Solo Around the World

 

At my age, 17, many kids struggle to decide what they want to be when they “grow up,” but that has never been a challenge for me. Since I was ten years old, I knew I was meant to be a pilot. I had dozens of aviation magazines tucked under my bed, and even though I had read them cover-to-cover dozens of times, I would still look at them every night and dream of becoming a pilot.

I remember reading about Polly Vacher and her 2003 flight around the world. That trip got me thinking, “why couldn’t I fly around the world just like Polly?” But I was only 13, how was I going to make that a reality? When I was 14, I became the UK’s youngest glider pilot, and on my 17th birthday, I got my private pilot’s license.

My life’s goal was set in motion when I learned about Lachlan Smart from Australia. At age 18 and 234 days, he broke the Guinness Record by becoming the youngest person to take a solo trip around the globe in an aircraft. I remember thinking to myself, “I already know how to fly a glider plane. What if I continue training? I could do this!”

On April 17, 2021, I will begin my attempt to break the world record and become the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world. Departing from White Waltham Airfield, an old historic airfield just a few miles west of London and right underneath Heathrow’s airspace, my route will take me to five continents, 21 countries, 53 stops, and 24,520 miles. I will even cross the equator, which is a huge accomplishment for me.

The flight will take two and a half months if everything goes according to plan and the weather cooperates. I’m working with an excellent logistics team that will make modifications to my schedule as needed to ensure the route is perfect and that it will get me around the world safely and in time to break the world record. 

 

The plane I am flying is actually quite a special aircraft. It is a Piper PA-28 Cadet built in 1989. Although the aircraft is twice as old as I am, it has been fitted with some amazing upgrades including many products from BendixKing, which is a Honeywell company. My plane also has a diesel engine that gives me a lot of range and is friendlier to the environment. Plus, it is outfitted with cameras to document my flight around the world and a nice, comfy interior since it will be my home away from home for nearly three months.

My favorite upgrade is my BendixKing AeroVue Touch. I saw this touchscreen flight display at a local airshow and was blown away by the high-resolution screen and all the things it can do. I have pretty much dreamed about it every day since I first saw it! The AeroVue Touch shows air speed and altitude and has a compass, a built-in navigator and a very cool 3-D terrain view. It also boosts my situational awareness about traffic and weather while I am flying.

AeroNav is my GPS navigation and communications system. This is the best and most accurate GPS system out there. It helps ensure I know where I am going all the time and that I am as safe as possible.

The BendixKing AeroCruze 100 is like my second in command. This flexible digital autopilot system can follow basic roll, heading and steering commands but it can also follow the GPS flight plans on the AeroNav. This makes flying a lot easier - and when flying is easier, it’s also a lot safer.

I am grateful for the BendixKing AeroFlight KI 300 which is the backup indicator and heading reference system. If by chance, there is an electrical fault with the aircraft, I know I’ve got an hour of backup aircraft stats on the screen in front of me, which is plenty of time to get myself out of trouble.

Lastly, and probably the most important upgrade on my plane, is the BendixKing AeroWave. It provides in-flight internet connectivity and allows me to have Wi-Fi wherever I am in the world. I can check emails and texts from anywhere, which is not only important to me, but an absolute requirement of my mum. She gets pretty worried about me when I am flying, so having the ability to text her and tell her I am okay is really important. AeroWave also lets me connect with in-flight weather worldwide. 

As I continue to train and prepare for my historic flight, I am reminded how lucky I am to have parents who support my aspirations. It’s a tough world out there right now and I hope my journey can inspire people – no matter how old they are – to set goals and follow their dreams. Even if they seem outlandish or unsurmountable, you never know if a dream is attainable until you try!

 

If you are interested in following my journey, visit my website at https://aroundtheworldsolo.co.uk/, follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/aroundtheworldsolo/ or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/travisludlow_aroundtheworld/

Travis Ludlow

Travis is a 17-year-old British schoolboy, who has been planning and training for over three years to become the youngest pilot to fly around the world. His initial take-off date is now scheduled to depart on April 17th, 2021. He is currently completing his IR in Phoenix, Arizona, as part of his training for his around the world, world record quest.