Michel Gordillo was on his way to the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida, where he planned to talk about his upcoming attempt to fly a Van's Aircraft RV-8 around the world via the Arctic and Antarctic poles.
Stopping at the U.S.-Mexico border, Gordillo discovered he was not permitted to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security took away his visa waiver, citing “improper procedure,” according to Don Pearsall, a friend of Gordillo who discussed the Spanish pilot’s upcoming flight on April 7 at Sun 'n Fun.
Instead of landing at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Gordillo planned to launch from Matamoros, Mexico, up the Gulf Coast, overfly the airport on the evening of April 7, then head to Freeport in the Bahamas to refuel. From there he’ll fly to Winnipeg, Canada, and then cross the North Pole into Europe, Pearsall said. Gordillo is blogging his trip—dubbed SkyPolaris—at his website, which shows his route as well as his location in real time. He says on the blog that his encounter with Homeland Security is because officials refused to issue him a travel visa because he is not a Mexican citizen. He had been told he could enter because Spain participates in a visa waiver program with the United States.
It’s not the first time Gordillo has flown around the world. In 2001 he built a two-seat DynAero MCR01 and circled the globe from Madrid, going east to west. On this trip, Gordillo is flying a highly modified Van’s Aircraft RV-8 that has auxiliary fuel tanks that permit him to carry a total of 200 gallons of fuel, giving him a range of 20 hours.
Gordillo plans to collect carbon particles from some of the more remote locations he visits, which he’ll turn over to the University of Madrid for further study. He hopes to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale record. No single-engine aircraft weighing less than 1,500 kilograms (about 3,300 pounds) has circled the Earth pole to pole, according to the website.