On ice in Iqaluit: ‘Frustrating’ oversight delays world record bid

May 9, 2013

Wise is the traveler who copies crucial travel documents before setting out on an international trip. But don’t forget to remove your passport from the copier.

Missing that second item has slowed Jack Wiegand’s bid to make a record-breaking solo flight around the world—as he discovered on arrival at his first international port of call at a snowy airport in Canada.

On the bright side, Wiegand—who had already flown from Fresno, Calif., to Morristown, N.J.—could chuckle about the glitch while enjoying some unexpected R&R in the arctic city of Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut Territory, Canada, as he waited for the passport to catch up to him.

“Such a silly thing to forget,” he said by phone from a bed and breakfast where he could gaze out the window at a frozen lake and watch snowmobiles and the occasional dog sled go by. These days it doesn’t get dark in Iqaluit until about 10 p.m., then it gets light again at 3 a.m., he said. But when it does, TV and high-speed internet helps pass the time. There’s also time to do the laundry.

So, what happened with the passport?

Wiegand said he thought the passport was safely in its leather case when he arrived at the Iqaluit airport on May 6. It wasn’t.

There followed an extensive search of the aircraft, then calls to previous stopovers. Nothing. Then he remembered that he had been copying travel documents at home in the days leading up to his departure. He phoned home.

“It was right there in the copy machine,” he said, a bit ruefully.

Customs couldn’t do much about that, but the officials were sympathetic, Wiegand said. He showed them the photocopy of the passport (for starters) and his driver’s license, just to establish his identity.

By May 8, the passport had made it to Ottawa, Canada. It was expected in Iqaluit the following day. That meant Wiegand might depart for Reyjkavik, Iceland, on May 10.

Red tape aside, Wiegand’s bid to break the Guinness World Record as the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world had gotten off to a good start on May 2, as he piloted the family's Mooney Ovation2 GX across the country through a variety of conditions. An odd weather pattern presented him with headwinds on eastbound legs that normally might offer tailwinds. There was ice to dodge in the Midwest. An ILS approach brought him into Spirit of the St. Louis Airport on arrival from Boulder, Colo. A six-hour leg from St. Louis brought him to Morristown, N.J., followed by some sightseeing in New York City.

From Morristown he launched for Iqaluit, where after a long day’s flying, snow-capped mountains pointed the way to the airport, and a landing in a 40-knot wind—and the empty passport case.

“It’s one of those things,” he said. “After the trip it’ll be a funny story, but right now it’s kind of frustrating.”