Record flight

January 14, 2011 by Tim McAdams

There are a handful of helicopter adventurers who have attempted the around-the-world speed record in helicopters. Simon Oliphant-Hope holds the current eastbound record. Based on the south coast of England, he is the owner and managing director of Shoreham based Eastern Atlantic Helicopters. In June 2004, he flew a MD 500E around the world in 17 days, 14 hours, 2 minutes, and 27 seconds beating the previous record of 24 days, 4 hours, 36 minutes, and 24 seconds set 10 years earlier by Ron Bower in a Bell 206B3. Bower and John Williams still hold the westbound record of 17 days, 6 hours, 14 minutes, and 25 seconds. Most attempts are eastbound to take advantage of winds.

Oliphant-Hope’s helicopter was a modified 1982 MD 500E that holds the distinction of being the only one certified for single-pilot IFR. An additional fuel tank was installed in the rear cabin that increased capacity from 60 gallons to 150 gallons giving the helicopter an endurance of more than five hours.

He didn’t just beat the old record; he crushed it by an amazing six-plus days. He accomplished this by carefully planning his route to optimize climate and light conditions while complying with the three basic rules required by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (the sole official source of international aviation records):

  1. The flight must cross all lines of longitude
  2. The total distance must be a minimum of 19,850.83 nm (the distance around the globe at the Tropic of Cancer)
  3. The flight must be between the Arctic and Antarctic circles

Looking at the map might give the impression he got lost flying through the United States. Not so, it was carefully planned to comply with the minimum distance required.

  • Dale Long

    That is amazing. I have flew a fixed-wing aircraft across the Atlantic to seal a sale and three times over to Western Alaska for working the fishing thing back in the early 1970’s – neither was any big deal. Traveling the world in a helicopter? Now, that’s a big deal.

    Thank you for sharing information with the rest of us. I love choppers but can only afford to stay current. Though I love rotorcraft, I mostly fly fixed-wing. Hard to justify personally owning a helicopter if it’s not making money. Enjoy your postings. Thank you.

  • pdxpilot

    Cool story! Amazing what pilots can do when they set their mind to it…

  • Steve Fairchild

    Amazing flight; But what really intrigues me is the planning and logistics. Is there anywhere an article or record of all the stuff and procedures to pull to this off? I have flown, with the Baja Bush Pilots and independently, through-out Mexico, Guatemala and over the Bering from Nome to Providenia Russia, (we were the first private planes to do that, on the first day that it was legal, we waited in Nome for the OK), but getting past the red tape and logistics of deeper flights must be a night-mare. Details of such flights would be very interesting and may encourage more of this kind of flying. I fly a Robinson/Cessna Skylane and a Skymaster T337B. Keep noses up in the turns.

  • Byron Wright

    This is either an old article or Mr McAdams didn’t do his homework before writing this article. The current eastbound record is 11 days, 7 hrs, 2 min set by Scott Kasporwicz and Steve Sheik in August 2008.Was Mr Oliphant-Hope’s flight possibly a record for solo flight?

  • Tim McAdams


    You are right Scott Kasporwicz and Steve Sheik hold the offical world record and that was my oversite. Oliphant-Hope’s flight was solo and he has the fastest time for a solo flight. However, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale does not distinguish between solo and dual so Oliphant-Hope’s flight is not an offical record.

    Thanks for finding my error as Scott Kasporwicz and Steve Sheik deserve the recognition.


  • Caleb

    That is amazing.