Private pilot flies to Iraq with toys, hospital funds

March 23, 2009

Robert Gannon at Basrah, Iraq.Robert Gannon delivers toys and a financial contribution for a children’s hospital specializing in cancer treatment in Basrah, Iraq.

Robert Gannon made one of his frequent stops on his around-the-world flight March 18 to deliver toys and a financial contribution for a children’s hospital specializing in cancer treatment in Basrah, Iraq. The trip was coordinated by Project Hope.

The gifts from a contractors’ association in Iowa, where Gannon was once a member, were to a hospital under construction financed by a worldwide effort. Gannon flies on his adventure when he can, parks the airplane in some foreign country, and returns home for a few months at a time to take care of business.

On Mar. 23 Gannon is flying to Damascus, Syria, for five days of sightseeing, and then on to Cyprus where his Cessna 182 will get its annual inspection. He’ll come home to pay his taxes.

Home will soon be San Diego again. He is moving back from Nevada. Gannon started the adventure because, “I want to, I can, and I do.” Gannon started a construction company after college, sold it, traded commodities in Chicago, and then went back to construction. He co-owns a wood shutter manufacturing company in San Diego.

Robert Gannon at Basrah, Iraq.He wanted an adventure but didn’t have the stomach for sailing, so he learned to fly and bought a Piper Cherokee Six that he later crashed on takeoff in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1992. At the time, he had only 295 hours total time of flying experience. He had named the aircraft “Lucky Lady,” and now calls his 182 “Lucky Lady, Too” out of respect for the airplane he says he “ruined.”

What he is doing now is finishing the adventure that ended prematurely in Africa. He has parked the aircraft in 28 countries, returning home each time, and has visited 110 countries including the Antarctica peninsula. The instrument-rated pilot said sand storms in the Middle East reach 12,000 feet, making some flights an IFR adventure. Of his 2,000-plus hours, 1,700 were spent just going somewhere new.