| Michael Combs has touched millions of people through his trip, Flight for the Human Spirit, which has taken him and his airplane, a Remos GX, to all 50 states. (photo by Phil Weston)
By Barbara A. Schmitz
August 2, 2013 - There was a point when new sport pilot Michael Combs thought about giving up on his quest to land in all 50 states in his light-sport airplane and set a world record.
Bad weather plagued his trip, and he spent 10 days in Nashville alone, waiting for the weather to improve so he could continue. That's 10 days of hotel rooms and rental car costs.
"When we took off to begin the flight we only had enough money for two weeks' worth of fuel, meals, and rental cars," he said. "But I've learned that everything happens for a reason."
While Combs thought of quitting, it ultimately didn't feel right, especially since his flight was called the Flight for the Human Spirit.
"This was a flight with a lot of faith that everything would be okay," he said. "I knew I had to be committed, even when things weren't a pleasure ride."
That commitment paid off. And in fact, everything was okay.
Combs and his plane, named Hope One, touched down in 49 states from April-September 2010. But the 50th state - Hawaii - proved a little more challenging. It would take two years, until September 2012, before he found a way to get there.
Fed Ex agreed to ship his Remos GX to Hawaii for $47,000. Another quote to ship by sea came in more reasonable at $16,000.
"But we're self-funded," Combs said. "We just couldn't afford that."
After telling his story to many, he finally found someone to help. His LSA was put on a C-5 military transport, along with Kirby Chambliss' Red Bull Edge 540, a jet fuel dragster, and Jacquie B's Extra, and flown out of Travis Air Force Base in California to Hawaii, where he and Hope One performed during the Kaneohe Bay Air Show along with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
With that performance, he became the first sport pilot to fly an LSA in all 50 states. His plane also has the distinction of being one of the few civilian aircraft to fly inside a C-5 military plane and to land at two military bases, Combs said.
Throughout his journey to all 50 states, Combs made 220 stops and covered more than 50,000 miles, or enough to fly around the world twice. He also holds the record for most miles logged in a light-sport aircraft.
He hopes to take off on his next attempt, a transcontinental flight from Ontario, California, to Charleston, South Carolina, before August 15 since the number of daylight hours are diminishing. He had originally hoped to begin his flight in June, but that was delayed because of poor weather, he said.
He must complete the flight in 37 hours, but he can only fly during the day because of the light-sport pilot restrictions. He figures he can do it in 33 hours, if the weather cooperates.
An attempt last year, however, fell short of the record by 90 miles when he ran into hail and was forced to land.
Once Combs completes his transcontinental flight, he has other world records he'd like to break. He's considering a coast-to-coast flight across Australia, or a world record flight in the Bahamas.
Combs said he keeps flying to spread the word that it's not too late to go after your dreams. He knows that to be true personally. After an illness almost killed him in 2003, he decided to learn how to fly and fulfill one of his life dreams.
"I've had many people tell us stories of how the flight touched their lives," he said. "Last year a man showed me a picture of a restaurant that he started that had always been his dream. It's amazing the impact I've made with a dream and a piece of carbon fiber..."