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South Pole flight recognizes AOPA’s eightieth anniversarySouth Pole flight recognizes AOPA’s eightieth anniversary

Zen Pilot’s Twin Commander flagged with special logoZen Pilot’s Twin Commander flagged with special logo

Editor's note: This article was updated January 10 with additional information.

Polar circumnavigator Robert DeLaurentis delivered on his vow to represent AOPA during a successful round-trip flight from South America to the South Pole in a modified Gulfstream Twin Commander 900.

Robert DeLaurentis flew a modified Gulfstream Turbo Commander 900 over the South Pole December 16 and has plans to fly over the North Pole in the months ahead. Photo courtesy of Robert DeLaurentis.

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.”

The AOPA Opinion Leaders blogger and AOPA Fly-In presenter dedicated a flight to the association from Rio de Janeiro to Recife, Brazil. “I made a promise to all my friends there that I would fly their ‘colors’ over the South Pole on my Polar Expedition in support of their 80th Anniversary in 2019,” he wrote on social media.

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.

The largest logo on Zen Pilot Robert DeLaurentis’s Citizen of the World aircraft was the AOPA eightieth anniversary logo nose art. Photo courtesy of Robert DeLaurentis, FlyingThruLife.com.

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.

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: Public Benefit Flying, People

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