March 26, 2013
By Dave Hirschman
Bill Harrelson, a distance-record-setting pilot, is back in the United States after a marathon 27-hour, nonstop flight from the southern tip of South America to Key West, Fla.
Harrelson, 68, had flown his modified Lancair IV to Punta Arenas, Chile, in a bid to fly around the world over both the north and south poles, but adverse weather at the bottom of the world forced him to abandon the effort.
“The likelihood of finding a window that is free of ice and has acceptable winds is decreasing very, very rapidly,” he said at the time. “It’s just too late in what has been an unusually bad season.”
Harrelson flew the vast majority of the trip home over the Pacific, and then crossed over Central America to the Caribbean and navigated around Cuba before landing in Key West 27 hours and 5 minutes after leaving Chile. Ground speeds at cruise ranged from 179 knots to more than 230 knots.
Harrelson’s Lancair IV can carry 361 gallons of avgas, and it’s powered by a normally aspirated Continental IO-550 engine. He lives in Fredericksburg, Va., where it was snowing and cold on March 25—a good reason to rest up in Key West.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
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