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Pilot plans around-the-world flight to promote GA

A pilot from California is preparing to launch May 18 on an around-the-world flight he hopes will show those he meets along the way that personal aviation is "truly available to everyone."

Robert DeLaurentis, 49, a businessman, writer, and aviation speaker from San Diego, plans to fly his 1997 Piper Malibu Mirage around the globe in about 90 days, giving presentations about general aviation in several countries. He had amassed 33 sponsors for his ambassadorial mission on behalf of general aviation as his departure date neared.

"This is not for profit," he said. "This is to give back to aviation."

"The Zen Pilot," as he calls himself on his website titled "Flying Thru Life," plans to fly his aircraft, named Spirit of San Diego, from San Diego to Bangor, Maine. On May 20 he would set out across the Atlantic Ocean from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada—"the shortest distance to the Azores," he said. 

DeLaurentis, an 1,100-hour pilot with a commercial pilot certificate with single-engine, multiengine, and instrument ratings, took his first flying lesson about five years ago. He made his first ocean crossing three years later. In the last three years he has flown the Piper PA-46-350P to 30 countries, and has crossed the polar ice cap, the North Atlantic, the Bering Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico solo, according to his online biography.

DeLaurentis said he has familiarized himself with recent earth-rounding flights and record-breaking attempts by pilots of light aircraft, and has talked to several of the pilots.

Flying only in daylight and reasonable weather, accompanied by a passenger on some legs and at other times alone, he will not be in a hurry—hence the 90-day trip plan, he said.

"Everybody has been in such a rush to get it done," he said.

The longest overwater flight interval was to be the homebound 2,150-nautical-mile leg from Hilo, Hawaii, to San Diego, which he expected to cover in 12 to 14 hours in the aircraft, which would have a range of about 2,700 nm.

As DeLaurentis works to raise global awareness that private flight between countries is a mode of transportation for which the time has arrived, and supports several charitable causes, he will be observing the functioning of several aircraft modifications made to the Spirit of San Diego to enhance performance, technological capabilities, and safety.

An MT propeller with four composite scimitar nickel-tipped blades was recently installed on the aircraft by Advanced Aircraft Service of San Diego. The prop increases rate-of-climb by 200 to 300 feet per minute, and adds two or three knots to cruise speed, he said. 

A nano-ceramic coating by Flight Shield was to be applied to the aircraft’s surface by Clean Wings Aviation, also of San Diego. The coating "reduces drag over the wings and fuselage which allows which allows the plane to fly faster and farther on the same amount of fuel," he said. 

The flight was also to provide a workout for devices and systems including a Garmin Flight Stream 210 wireless gateway; electric ignition by ElectroAir; an AltAir altitude sensor; Lightspeed’s PFX noise-canceling headset; and in case of emergency, aviation airbags from AmSafe.

The product selection, largely from companies with a presence in San Diego, was also intended to demonstrate that the city, with an estimated 67 "blue technology" enterprises, also is "quite the hotbed of aviation technology." DeLaurentis reinforces that point with the name of his aircraft, which is modeled on Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the aircraft that was flown nonstop by Lindbergh from New York to Paris in 1927. And the date he has set for crossing the Atlantic matches the May 20 departure from New York made by Lindbergh.

Lindberg also flew with the day’s latest technology, DeLaurentis said, noting that Lindbergh’s compass "was cutting edge."

On the completion of his flight, DeLaurentis, who holds an advanced degree in spiritual psychology, planned to release a new book, Flying Thru Life, in which he discusses how to grow businesses, and relationships, with "applied spirituality."

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Around the World Flight, People, Travel

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