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Bonanza V35 pilots take off on ambitious journeys

Shinji Maeda around the world, Adrian Eichhorn over the North Pole

After last-minute repairs, tutoring, and a one-day weather delay, self-described “one-eyed pilot” Shinji Maeda and earthrounder mentor Adrian Eichhorn took off in formation May 6 from Manassas, Virginia, in nearly identical Beechcraft Bonanza V35 aircraft for separate ambitious aviation adventures.

  • Earthrounder and mentor Adrian Eichhorn stands with mentee Shinji Maeda during a departure ceremony at Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia. The two are flying separately in nearly identical Beechcraft Bonanza V35 aircraft. Maeda plans to fly around the world solo to demonstrate perseverance, and Eichhorn is flying solo over the North Pole. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Shinji Maeda relaxes on the wing of "Lucy," a 1963 Beechcraft Bonanza. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Robert Haase helps Adrian Eichhorn with a review of high frequency radio operations in the Beechcraft Bonanza V35 before Eichhorn departs for a solo flight over the North Pole. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Pilots Shinji Maeda and Adrian Eichhorn are joined by earthrounders Adam Brome and Bill Harrelson during a sendoff in Manassas, Virginia. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Well-wishers gather to send off aspiring earthrounder Shinji Maeda during a departure ceremony at Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A group of well-wishers gather to send off Adrian Eichhorn Shinji Maeda during a ceremony at Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Adrian Eichhorn checks the displays of a digital panel, which shows a graphical representation of his route over the North Pole. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Adrian Eichhorn greets his friend and protégé Shinji Maeda during a departure ceremony at Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Shinji Maeda displays a photo of his wife, Makiko, and children Tsubasa and Sana, that he will view when he gets lonely. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Shinji Maeda, a CFI, shows his comedic side during final preparations for an around the world flight. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A nearly new Continental IO-550B 300-horsepower engine in Shinji Maeda’s aircraft is expected to burn about 13 gallons per hour at 170 knots between 9,000 and 11,000 feet and operate at lean of peak. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A nearly new Continental IO-550B 300-horsepower engine in Adrian Eichhorn's aircraft is expected to burn about 13 gallons per hour at 170 knots between 9,000 and 11,000 feet and operate at lean of peak. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Adrian Eichhorn applauds Shinji Maeda, who bows during a departure ceremony at Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia. Maeda is flying around the world solo to demonstrate perseverance, and Eichhorn is flying solo over the North Pole. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Beechcraft Bonanza V35 pilot Shinji Maeda stenciled an inspirational message on the cockpit door. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Shinji Maeda records a video segment prior to departing Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia as a flight of two with fellow Bonanza V35 pilot Adrian Eichhorn before Maeda splits off at Iceland for a solo flight around the world while Eichhorn continues solo over the North Pole. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Shinji Maeda is joined by earthrounders Adrian Eichhorn (2016), Adam Broome (2016), and Bill Harrelson (2015, 2019) for a group photo before Maeda embarks on a solo circumnavigation while Eichhorn takes off to fly solo over the North Pole. Photo by David Tulis.

The two were geared up to depart on May 5. Eichhorn, who piloted his 1962 P model single-engine Bonanza around the world in 2016, gave Maeda a hug and advice before the Japanese pilot bowed to a crowd of about 20 well-wishers gathered for the sendoff at Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field.

“I told Shinji there are only two things that are certain: One is that things won’t go according to plan. The other is that you’ll become homesick,” Eichhorn said as photos were snapped, and last-minute details checked off. Sure enough, a cracked fuel line fitting and a line of thunderstorms across their planned routes delayed an intended formation departure until 10:10 a.m. Eastern time on May 6. To combat homesickness, Maeda has a laminated photo of his wife, Makiko; 4-year-old son, Tsubasa; and 8-month-old daughter, Sana, posted on his instrument panel.

Fellow Bonanza earthrounder Adam Broome (2016) flew in to wish both pilots well, and earthrounder Bill Harrelson (2019, 2015)  presented Eichhorn with a loud lime green alarm clock during a brief pre-departure ceremony May 5. Eichhorn also broke into a container of home-baked chocolate chip cookies presented to him with an additional weight and balance chart to account for the tasty snack's additional payload. All four pilots posed for photos near their aircraft as the skies first brightened and then clouded over before afternoon downpours.

Shinji Maeda and Adrian Eichhorn are joined by earthrounders Bill Harrelson and Adam Broome during a sendoff at Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia. Photo by David Tulis.

Maeda and Eichhorn plan to fly their V-tails in a loose formation to Bangor, Maine, then onward as far as Iceland so the mentor can continue to support his protégé with high frequency radio calls and some final encouragement.

Over the frigid North Atlantic Ocean, Eichhorn will continue north over the top of the world and the North Pole before turning south to Ladd Army Airfield in Fairbanks, Alaska, and then Portland, Oregon. Maeda, in a red 1963 P model named Lucy, will split off to the east toward Europe during an earthrounding flight through 16 countries. The flight itinerary originally included only 12 countries before the FAA denied a request for additional fuel ferry tanks and sent Maeda back to the drawing board to add additional stops and complexity, but it didn’t deter him.

Maeda said his longest leg should be eight to 10 hours in the Middle East, while Eichhorn was prepared for a 20-hour leg during his polar overflight. The pilots said their nearly new Continental IO-550B 300-horsepower engines were expected to burn about 13 gallons per hour at 170 knots between 9,000 and 11,000 feet and operate at lean of peak. Maeda estimated the global journey would span eight weeks and cost about $40,000 for fuel, oil, fees, and accommodations.

The native of Japan suffered a crushed optic nerve as a teenager after a motorcycle crash and a monthslong hospital stay. Maeda said he felt like his career aspirations were dashed after he learned that regulations prevented him from pursuing flight training in his home country. 

Adrian Eichhorn helped coach Shinji Maeda for a solo around-the-world flight and will accompany him part of the way in a separate and nearly identical Beechcraft Bonanza V35 as they depart Manassas, Virginia, and fly north. Photo by David Tulis.

With encouragement from Maeda’s father, the road to recovery led to the United States and an aviation science degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona. From there, a college flight instructor reignited Maeda’s passion for flight. The federal air surgeon granted Maeda a statement of demonstrated ability, and he earned a private pilot certificate, an instrument rating, and a commercial pilot certificate. He also became a certificated flight instructor. His father, who died three years ago, pushed Maeda to share his personal story of perseverance. “He said, ‘Son, you didn’t give up. You didn’t commit suicide. You didn’t back down. You have to meet a whole bunch of people to tell them your story of this wonderful life’” as an aviator.

His mother dictated the Japanese inscription “dreams come true, make it happen,” hand painted on the Bonanza’s red tail cone that was one of the final pieces of the earthrounding journey to fall into place.

His life experiences encouraged Maeda to become a motivational speaker. He plans to spread his messages of hope to others during downtime in Greenland, Norway, France, Greece, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, and Russia. Though the coronavirus pandemic has prevented public gatherings, Maeda is posting candid videos of his travels where he reveals his comedic personality, as well as serious advice about achieving one’s goals through determination, mentorship, and camaraderie. Maeda hopes his presence during a stopover in Japan may lead to reforms that could allow others to follow in his footsteps.

Maeda credits the U.S. aviation community for embracing him and supporting his hopes and aspirations. “This is my chance to pay it back to the aviation community. We all need hope, and we need a dream,” he said, pointing to the pandemic as proof that people are hungry for some good news. After a one-year pandemic-induced delay, Maeda said he was ready to go.

Maeda said he’s been repeating a phrase to psyche himself up as the departure neared. “‘This is it, Shinji, now it’s showtime,’” and he is ready to fly. “My message is that ‘you can do it.’”

Get updates on Maeda via the Aero Zypangu Project (Air Japan) homepage or Facebook; and follow Eichhorn's journey directly through Spidertracks.

  • Shinji Maeda speaks with mentor Adrian Eichhorn before departing Manassas, Virginia, for an earth rounder flight. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Shinji Maeda bows to his Beechcraft Bonanza V35 before departing from Manassas, Virginia, on an earthrounder mission. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Adrian Eichhorn prepares to depart in a Beechcraft Bonanza V35 from Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia for a solo flight over the North Pole. He originally planned to fly with several other Bonanza pilots to share the camaraderie of aviation, the scenery, and the adventure. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Shinji Maeda prepares to depart in a Beechcraft Bonanza V35 from Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia as a flight of two with fellow Beechcraft Bonanza V35 pilot and mentor Adrian Eichhorn. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Shinji Maeda signals to mentor Adrian Eichhorn as they prepare for a formation departure from Manassas, Virginia. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Adrian Eichhorn taxis a Beechcraft Bonanza V35 before departing on a solo flight over the North Pole. He originally planned to fly with several other Bonanza pilots to share the camaraderie of aviation, the scenery, and the adventure. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Shinji Maeda and Adrian Eichhorn taxi for departure in their similar Beechcraft Bonanza V35 models at Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Adrian Eichhorn signals from a Beechcraft Bonanza V35 before departing for a solo flight over the North Pole. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Shinji Maeda taxis in a Beechcraft Bonanza V35 before departing from Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia on an earthrounder flight to highlight perseverance. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Shinji Maeda and Adrian Eichhorn taxi their Beechcraft Bonanza V35 aircraft for departure from Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Shinji Maeda leads Adrian Eichhorn in a formation takeoff from Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia. Maeda will split away from mentor Eichhorn at Iceland for a solo earthrounder flight while Eichhorn continues solo over the North Pole. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • Shinji Maeda and Adrian Eichhorn takeoff in formation from Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field in Virginia before Maeda splits off for a solo earthrounder flight at Iceland and Eichhorn continues solo over the North Pole. Photo by Chris Rose.
David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot 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-winning AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft and photography.
Topics: Around the World Flight, People

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