|Ryan Campbell, left, and Jack Wiegand stand in front of Campbell's plane at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013. Campbell is in the middle of an around-the-world flight, and Wiegand just completed his flight. (photo by Phil Weston)
By Barbara A. Schmitz
July 30, 2013 - Jack Wiegand became the youngest person to fly solo around the world on June 29 at 21 years and seven days old. But it's a record that he might not hold for long.
Ryan Campbell is making his way around the world, too, and should finish this fall at age 19.
The two EAA members met on the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013 grounds on Monday.
Wiegand, of Fresno, California, broke the record that was previously held by James Anthony Tan of Malaysia, who was 21 years and 344 days old when he took the title in May 2013. If Campbell, of Australia, finishes his trip in September as planned, he will be about 19 years and 8 months old.
But while both Campbell and Wiegand say they undertook the journey to break the world record, it's become secondary to the actual experience.
"At first I did it for the record," Wiegand says. "But after awhile, it really was for the challenge and adventure."
Wiegand departed from California's Fresno Yosemite International Airport on May 2 and flew 21,000 nautical miles while crossing three oceans, making 22 stops and visiting 12 countries in his family's Mooney Ovation2 GX.
Campbell departed Sydney, Australia, on June 30 in a Cirrus SR22 and plans to finish the trip on September 7. He will fly an estimated 24,000 nautical miles, making 28 stops in 14 countries.
Although they took different routes in their circumnavigation of the Earth, they both say the experience is amazing and challenging.
For Wiegand, perhaps the most challenging part was weather. Weather delays kept him from flying from Japan across the Pacific Ocean to Alaska for more than three weeks.
He also ran into a problem when he hit his first international destination at Iqaluit Airport in northern Canada.
"I handed over my passport holder, but my passport wasn't in it," he says, laughing. "I had left in at home in the copy machine when I was making photocopies. It wasn't a good way to start my international travels."
The passport was sent via UPS and Wiegand was able to continue on his international route.
Campbell says he split his trip into sections; the first was to cross the Pacific, and the second was to make it to Oshkosh for the fly-in and convention. But the Pacific was challenging. "It's hot, you're on your own, and there is a whole lot of water," he says.
Campbell spent nearly two years preparing for the trip. He first e-mailed several entrepreneurs and former around-the-world pilots in Australia, looking for help. After a month of e-mails, Ken Evers, the first Australian to circumnavigate the globe in an Australian-designed and manufactured plane, agreed to mentor him.
He then started all the other details that go into such a trip, including fundraising and sponsorship. Both say that was more difficult than they had imagined.
The two round-the-world trips are meant to promote youth involvement in aviation. Wiegand has spent a lot of time speaking about his performance since he finished his trip, and Campbell has made it a priority at his stops, too.
"The more people we can encourage, the better," Wiegand says.
Campbell agrees. "We need to promote aviation and show young people that it is possible to fly."