July 14, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
Watch out, Hawaii. Michael Combs is coming.
He’s had you on his flight log for a while now; April 8, 2010, might be a good starting point for the time line. That was when Combs took off from Salina, Kan., in a Remos light sport aircraft with a plan of landing in all 50 states on a mission of inspiration called the Flight for the Human Spirit.
Combs likes to say that the mission, which you can track on his website, isn’t just about distances—it’s about overcoming personal obstacles and barriers to achieving astonishing things. Things like resolving in 2009—even before he had earned a pilot certificate—to land an aircraft in all the states.
The most recent chapter of his flight also was about setting an aviation record.
On July 9 Combs landed at Branson Airport in Branson, Mo., after a flight from Fort Worth, Texas, that allowed him to claim a new world’s record for time over a distance in his aircraft class. (Final confirmation awaits receipt of two official timesheets, he said in a news release.)
“It feels fantastic, and quite an accomplishment. After all of the planning that went into this particular flight leg, I am very relieved to now have it behind us,” he said.
That relief reflects much preflight nail-biting and doubt. Weather in the form of a south-moving front threatened the record flight leg for several days. Even after takeoff, the outlook wasn’t hopeful.
“The on-board computers were telling me that based on the current flight conditions, I wouldn’t have enough fuel to complete the total distance,” he said. But after crossing the front, the winds became favorable—just as he had thought possible.
Combs said that his unofficial average speed was 106.32 miles per hour over the straight line flight distance of 349 miles. When the official timing documents are submitted from two time keepers, the event will be certified as an aviation world record by the National Aeronautic Association, he said.
Combs and his wife Michele were greeted by officials of the Branson Airport, the city of Branson, and the city of Hollister. The local representatives took delight in the fact that the record will put them on the map of aviation history.
“We are thrilled to be the site of this world record setting moment in aviation history,” said Jeff Bourk, Branson Airport’s executive director.
The Branson touchdown marked the 170th stop on The Flight for the Human Spirit.
So far Combs has flown into 49 states and Canada—with only Hawaii eluding his landing gear. Meanwhile, he has flown an estimated 28,000 miles.
As for Hawaii, Combs said that he is “knocking on doors every single day,” making plans to ship the aircraft there, raising funds through donations, and acquiring sponsors.
The one sure thing, he said, is that it will happen.
“No one can fly this far and give up. That’s just not what I’m about,” Combs said.
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