California group sets new helicopter speed record

May 5, 2009

On the morning of April 20, the World Record Helicopter Team took off from Brown Airport in San Diego in an R44 helicopter en route to Savannah/Hilton Head airport and back. The flight was an attempt to beat the coast-to-coast and back world record of 70 hours and 19 seconds, set by the same team in April 2008. The team was led by Chief Pilot Johan Nurmi and pilots Roy Sciortino, Tyler Kim, and Bill Laggner.

They chose the departure date carefully after studying weather patterns across the United States. However, along the route they encountered temperatures approaching 100 degrees F and because of weight and density altitude the team had to perform running takeoffs and landings. Flying at night they used night vision goggles for safety. Strong headwinds shortened some of the legs and required some unplanned fuel stops.

Despite the obstacles, the team landed at Brown Airport 59 hours and 19 seconds after they departed setting a new world record that was more than 10 hours faster than the old record. The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) and Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) will be investigating the paperwork and, if approved, the record will become official.

The world record helicopter team is based in southern California. The project is run by Nurmi to raise money for charity. For more information visit the Web site.