Standing on the airplane (left and right) Mike Blyth and James Pitman, the around-the-world fliers from
Johannesburg, South Africa, arrived on schedule in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on
Tuesday, July 28, as part of a six-day visit to AirVenture. Flying a Rotax
912S-powered D6 Sling, a new light-sport aircraft, the adventurers flew
more than 17,000 kilometers (about 10,540 miles) and will continue their
journey west to circumnavigate the globe.
|Photo by Tim Gaffney
A map on each wing shows the route Mike Blythe and James Pitman
are taking in their round-the-world trip.
|Photo by Tim Gaffney
James Pitman, left, and Mike Blyth designed and built this Rotax
912-powered D6 Sling airplane just before flying it from
Johannesburg South Africa to Oshkosh. They arrived Tuesday
evening. They plan to continue flying west to circle the world
before returning to South Africa and offering the airplane for
July 29, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- Just 40 hours on a new airplane design and it's ready to fly around the
world. Not every pilot would agree, but for Mike Blyth, 55, and James
Pitman, 40, of Johannesburg, South Africa, that's just part of the
The pair left Johannesburg en route to
Oshkosh in the Sling, a light-sport aircraft they designed and modified
for the trip. After three-and-a-half years of modifying and testing their
first prototype through their company, the Airplane
Factory, Blyth and Pitman built number two in two months.
"Production prototype number two" has higher capacity fuel tanks
(118.5 gallons total) and beefed-up landing gear. With 92 hours of flying
time to Oshkosh covering about 10,540 miles, the aircraft now has 132
How is it performing?
"It has held up brilliantly; performed
immaculately," Pitman said. "The Rotax 912S idles a little
rough, which is a bit nerve-wracking when taking off to fly across the
ocean, but it's perfect when we open it up."
Blyth and Pitman, who say the flight is
"number one about the spirit of adventure," flew much of the
flight to Oshkosh during the nighttime hours, avoiding takeoffs and
landings in the dark at unknown airfields since the darkness is
disconcerting. "We focus on the instruments...they are our
life," Pitman said.
In Oshkosh, they're not quite half-way
around the world; that milestone will come when they reach Los Angeles,
California. From L.A., they'll be off for Hawaii; it's a leg they both
admit has them feeling a bit nervous.
"There's nothing between L.A. and
Hawaii," Blyth said. They are already looking at forecast winds for
that leg and watching their fuel burn, which is about 5 gallons per hour.
"We can't make it without a tailwind from L.A.," Pitman said.
Still, they appear confident, and the three
GPS units, a TRIO autopilot, two MGL Avionics' Voyager EFIS units, a life
raft, life jackets, drinking water, and personal locator beacons add a
sense of security about reaching their destination. They carry minimum
supplies; their toolkit consists of a screwdriver and wrench for minor
adjustments. Two changes of clothes and a blanket and pillow per pilot (it
gets cold at night at altitude) about covers the baggage. This flight is
not about comfort, remember, it's about the adventure, and it appears
they're succeeding at that.
The large South African contingent already
on the grounds, along with Facebook fans and website followers, was there
to greet their arrival, providing a warm welcome and a chance to unwind
"We're having fun," Blyth said.
"It's hard work, but it's been an amazing, amazing experience."
The approximate one-month flight includes six days at AirVenture. "We
love airplanes," Pitman said. "It's a natural to come to