The largest logo on the Zen Pilot’s Citizen of the World aircraft was the AOPA eightieth anniversary logo nose art. The black-on-white wings and shield survived temperatures of minus-60 degrees Celsius and speeds of 360 miles per hour at 35,000 feet. DeLaurentis described the 18-hour flight over Antarctica that included navigation loss, extreme weather, and pilot fatigue as “very challenging.”
In 2019 AOPA celebrated eight decades of representing general aviation pilots and the freedom to fly. The festivities included three fly-ins; the establishment of a memorabilia museum at our Frederick, Maryland, headquarters; Freedom to Fly, a coffee table book detailing 80 years of AOPA and American aviation history; and other special promotions.
Prior to the polar flight, DeLaurentis was worried about fuel gelling from extremely low temperatures and fuel quantities because of modifications performed on the two thirsty Honeywell TPE331-10T Predator Drone engines. When he emerged victorious, the Californian wrote that he was thrilled to fly over the South Pole representing AOPA during the association’s eightieth anniversary year.
He explained the significance of having AOPA on board during the physically and technologically demanding journey. “AOPA has been with me since I first started to fly,” DeLaurentis posted on Facebook, adding that his first fight instructor, Tim Farmer, “handed me a card to fill out and told me I needed to be a member of AOPA. He was right, of course, about everything he taught me, including AOPA.”
DeLaurentis wrote that he “had a dream of lecturing and writing for AOPA, which eventually came true after years of working towards my aviation goals.” He complimented AOPA for a team that he called “extremely generous and knowledgeable” and added that the relationships he built blossomed into a network of friends and family.
He is currently in South Africa and plans to also fly over the North Pole. DeLaurentis is carrying experiments and other science projects during a six-month mission that includes efforts to raise science, technology, engineering, and math awareness, and to promote worldwide unity.