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Zen Pilot crosses South Pole

Robert DeLaurentis flew a modified Gulfstream Turbo Commander 900 from Ushuaia, Argentina, to the South Pole—and back—December 16 during a “very challenging” 18-hour flight that included navigation loss, extreme weather, and pilot fatigue.

Zen Pilot Robert DeLaurentis captured this image from the cockpit of a modified Gulfstream Turbo Commander 900 during a roundtrip flight from Ushuaia, Argentina, to the South Pole, and back. Photo courtesy of Robert DeLaurentis.

Before the flight, DeLaurentis observed that he faced the risk of fuel gelling, pilot fatigue, and worries about fuel quantities because of modifications performed on the two thirsty Honeywell TPE331-10T Predator Drone engines. If all went as planned, he calculated that his aircraft, Citizen of the World, would have a 27-percent extra margin of fuel running at about 5 nautical miles per gallon.

DeLaurentis noted in an email that the flight notched several firsts, including using biofuels over the South Pole, tracking over the pole with ADS-B equipment, setting time and distance marks for a Turbo Commander, and conducting certain plastic-testing experiments as well as a NASA spacecraft experiment.

In addition, he was thrilled to fulfill a promise to fly the AOPA colors over the South Pole during the association’s eightieth anniversary year.

DeLaurentis also plans to fly Citizen of the World over the North Pole during a six-month mission to help unite humanity; bring science, technology, engineering, and math to the forefront of youth education; and highlight the benefits of general aviation. Follow his Pole to Pole effort online.

David Tulis

David Tulis

Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: Around-the-World Flight

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