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Author: Robert DeLaurentis (page 1 of 4)

Personal lessons learned on the Pole to Pole Flight

 Taking yourself and your aircraft to their absolute limits can teach you things you never knew about yourself, your aircraft, and those involved in the operation of your airplane. While we strive for perfection in our training, the maintenance of our aircraft, and the planning of our missions realistically we will never achieve any of those. That doesn’t mean we should ever stop trying. This art form I’m describing is called flying and can be our greatest source of joy but also at times be the most frustrating and the riskiest thing we will ever do. It is my hope that these lessons learned will help you enjoy your practiced art form while keeping as safe as possible.

Take your time preparing

Don’t rush your preparations for flight. This is a vitally critical time where you get into the zone and begin your transition from being a two to three-dimensional being. Methodically pre-flighting and thinking through your flight can help you avoid making dangerous mistakes. If you are hurried, tell whoever is waiting for you, counting the seconds, that it’s going to be a while longer, and you will be delayed. Take the stress off and take time out of the equation. If you feel like spending 30 minutes with the instruction manual on that new piece of equipment, pushing buttons on your panel, studying the approaches, walking yourself through the emergency checklists, or just sitting for a minute and being quiet then do it. This time is well worth it and will make your experience flying more enjoyable.

When I was in Sweden, I was instructed to park in a particular location that ended up partially blocking the taxiway. In my rush to move the plane the following day, I forgot to take one of the exhaust covers off the pilot side engine. After shutdown, I found the burnt-up exhaust cover 25 feet behind the Gulfstream Turbo Commander 900. I ran to the front of Citizen of the World to see if I had removed the intake cover knowing if I hadn’t, the engine would need to be removed, shipped to a repair facility, and inspected at great cost and delay.

Listen to what your inner voice is saying to you!

If you keep thinking about a nagging problem on your airplane or a concept you don’t quite understand you need to delve deeper into the issue and find out why the Universe keeps tipping you off. I couldn’t help thinking about the environmental system that I ran hard during my polar expedition. I flew the airplane at altitudes higher and colder than it was originally designed to fly while simultaneously using the environmental system to heat the ferry fuel stored in the cabin. When I got back to the United States, we found two stainless steel bleed airlines that had been cooked and burst from long flights of up to 18.1 hours in duration. When the Universe talks, listen!

Hyperfocus

While a Polar Circumnavigation can be extremely complicated organizing sponsorship, speaking engagements, social media, and repairs to the plane when it’s time to fly, your focus should only be on that. Erik Lindbergh said it best before I left the U.S., “You have only one mission and that is to stay alive!” None of the other things that you have going on in your life that are unrelated to aviation will help your decision-making skills in the cockpit. Your ability to stay 100% at the moment will allow you to do the best you can. If you are feeling distracted by something major in your life, visualize taking the issue from your mind and put it into a little wooden box that you will open when you are back on the ground and have the bandwidth.

Never give up on your passion

There are times when things went terribly wrong on my Polar Circumnavigation and I could have quit. One of those moments occurred when my #1 ferry tank burst inside the airplane in Dakar, Senegal, due to a misalignment of the valves, and sprayed fuel in my eyes, on my legs, stomach, arms, chest, and groin. I could have stepped back and watched the airplane be destroyed, packed it up, and called it quits. Instead, I splashed water in my eyes, deflected the fuel out of the plane by cutting a fuel line and using a plastic bag, and did what I could to save it while others around me watched in disbelief. Once the leaking tank drained, I tossed my clothes in the garbage can, showered, had a meal, went to sleep, and left the following day. I skipped the judgments and got on with the mission.

Have faith in your ability to accomplish the impossible

For 18 months I had been told by the industry flight planning leader that they would be able to get me permits to fly to the South Pole. Two days before my departure from the United States, they told me they were unsuccessful, and based on some calls they had made to the Chilean government I would now need permission from their scientific community a process that would take six months.

I recall getting this news standing on the ramp in Las Vegas feeling defeated and betrayed. After 18 months of making promises to 95 sponsors, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and working harder than I ever had in my life—things looked very grim. I turned to the U.S. Department of State and they refused to help me despite the fact that the Antarctic Treaty permitted all member nations free movement in the airspace over the continent.

Within 24 hours my team and I shook the setback off and shifted into high gear. Our senior scientist Dr. Dimitri Deheyn from Scripps Institute of Oceanography reached out to the senior scientist for Chile asking for an exception. General Aviation Support Egypt reached out to a British military base in the Falkland Islands asking for permission to depart from there and famed circumnavigator Michel Gordillo reached out to his contacts in Ushuaia, Argentina . In the end, we got approval from all three countries and pulled off what the industry leader could not.  It was an epic win for our team and a testament to what was possible when you choose faith over fear.

Get used to stretching your comfort zone on every flight a small amount

If you aren’t growing, then you are stagnating. It’s an easy space to slip into and before you know it you are afraid. I’m not suggesting taking major chances, but I am suggesting trying new functions on your panel, simulating different emergency procedures, and memorizing the location of critical circuit breakers.  With time you will become a more confident and skilled pilot. You may feel uncomfortable at times, but my guess is you have felt a little awkward during your training and worked through the issues only to be rewarded with a heightened sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Mitigating the risk of flight

Every flight is an opportunity to identify and mitigate the risks that you will encounter. Before each flight, you need to sit for a moment and ask yourself what risks will you encounter on this flight? What can you do to improve your chances of success? Most flights offer different challenges like weather, distance, terrain, day/night, foreign countries, corruption, runway length/surface, and pandemic considerations. One of the most challenging risks I had to mitigate on my Polar Expedition was extreme cold. To mitigate the risk, I flew at the warmest time of the year, installed additional temperature sensors, installed a new environmental system with higher heat capacity, heated my fuel inside the cabin of the plane, wore a survival suit, used Prist and biofuels with a lower gel point, spoke with people that had flown my type of aircraft in the extreme cold and even considered burning avgas in my turboprop engines which is permitted on occasion. How far are you willing to go to make your flight safe?

While the Pole to Pole flight of the Citizen of the World did many things in support of STEM Education, aviation, science, and world peace I am most proud of what I have learned and shared what I hope will make flying safer for each and every general aviation pilot. As a community working together to share what we learn in our areas of expertise we can make everyone safer and our flying experience more enjoyable.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Aircraft lessons learned during a Polar Circumnavigation

Flying Citizen of the World to the South Pole and then the North Pole can create stresses on the aircraft that it was never designed to endure. Furthermore, taking a stock aircraft and modifying it in over 50 ways and hoping all those systems will work in perfect harmony for 8 months and 23 days over 26,000 nautical miles is total insanity. But somehow, we did it. Along the way, we learned a lot about what a 1983 Gulfstream Turbine Commander is really capable of when supported by some of the most talented and skilled mechanics, engineers and aviation enthusiasts. Below I’ve shared the most important of these lessons in hopes that you will be able to operate your aircraft in the safest and most reliable way possible.

Be protective of your plane

Before anyone puts a wrench to my airplane, I want to make sure that they are in the mental state to focus 100 percent on the job at hand and have lots of experience. If they are dealing with a major life event or anything that will distract them, then they need to resolve their issues first. Pilots must be in a good mental state of mind to fly, so why shouldn’t the person who you are trusting to keep your machine running over oceans, mountains, in the dark, and in bad weather not have the same requirements? I know the aviation industry says the most likely cause of flying accidents or incidents is pilot error, but I would disagree. New mechanics today are taught component replacement not the critical thinking skills like diagnosing and the repair of problems.

Critical aircraft components fail regularly

If you think you will be lucky and never experience a major component failure in flight then you are in for a few surprises. Airplanes are machines and all machines eventually fail. In fact, the more we ask from these systems the shorter their lifespan. With just 2,000 hours flying time I’ve had engines, avionics, hydraulics, props, environmental systems, tires, fuel tanks, batteries, and even windows fail at critical moments. Using the very best mechanics and equipment money can buy didn’t stop it from happening as well.

The thing that surprised me in preparing for my flight was that new parts could fail as well. I experienced this test-flying my new high-tech environmental system at 34,500 feet. I lost pressurization when the turbo charger blew out with just six hours of life on it. The problem was eventually traced to a sound resonance issue the designer/installer didn’t detect during the test flights.

Install multiple redundant systems

As I watched my flight management systems, attitude heading and references systems, and autopilot fail while flying over the North and South Poles, the importance of having backups never became more important. Redundancy and not becoming attached to any one piece of gear for any critical phase of flight can save your life. Luckily, different types of backup avionics systems are plentiful and relatively inexpensive today. With just an L3Harris ESI 500 with battery backup, an iPad, and an Icom handheld radio, you can pretty much fly your aircraft if you lose the rest of your panel. Having these independent backup systems allows you to troubleshoot when things get difficult.

Go high-tech and low-tech

Technology offers us so many advantages but let’s not forget about our heavier, older, and oftentimes rock-solid steam gauges. I have both in all the aircraft I fly and while it makes for a busier panel that may not look as cool as all glass, you are covered in an emergency. Additionally, just about any avionics shop in the world can change out old-school steam gauges.

In preparation for the Polar Circumnavigation of the Citizen of the World, we reinstalled a directional gyro that was crucial to navigation over both poles as well as an ADF that is required for flight in Europe. Both of these systems likely came with the airplane when it was built back in 1983.

Planning your flight may be the most critical component

Every minute you spend on the ground planning out your flight—and responses to critical issues that can come up during the flight—can save your life. When you are on the ground and thinking calmly, and not under stress, is when you will do your best planning. Spend extra time reviewing your approach plates, writing down the frequencies you will use, studying the weather, selecting alternates, and thinking about the “What if’s?”

When I was in Madagascar two days before departure, I spent time reviewing the weather patterns in this area of the world. I saw the winds starting to swirl between the mainland and the island. It was the beginning of a cyclone and caused me to leave a day early which saved my airplane and possibly my life.

During moments of crises focus on what is working

When I was flying over the North Pole without comms, autopilot, attitude heading and reference systems, or flight management systems, it would have been easy to fixate on the avionics that had gone offline and try to fix them. Instead, in a moment of clarity, I decided to search for what was working and use it. At the time, the iPad was working perfectly, I was above the cloud deck with a reference to the horizon, and the 1,150-horsepower Honeywell TPE 331 engines outfitted with five-bladed props were perfection in motion.

Check the work of your mechanics

I usually allow a half-day after a major maintenance period to look over the airplane with the mechanics. Take a wrench to the fittings that have been worked on. Run the systems, stress the aircraft. You are the pilot in command and the one who’s life is on the line. With the exception of High Performance Aircraft Inc. in San Diego, I don’t know any repair facility that takes the airplane up in the air after major work to test it for the customers. This alone is reason to pay a premium for the work that is done on your aircraft.

In my nine years of flying I’ve never had a truly perfect flight. If you think you did, I can almost guarantee that you missed something. For this reason, aviation is a great place to hone your skills, refine your aircraft, and learn valuable lessons about life on every flight. See your aircraft as a training ground, a place to grow your mind, body, and soul to better experience all the wonders that are available for you! In the process this will make your experience safer and more enjoyable knowing that you are prepared for anything that may come your way.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Lessons learned as a Citizen of the World

After nine months of meeting and talking with literally thousands of people across the planet during my pole-to-pole circumnavigation and global peace mission, and interviewing more than 50 of them about what it means to be a “Citizen of the World,” I’d like to share what I learned along the way.

Once I had been away from home for about two months, my perspective started to change. I began to forget about the things I liked doing back in San Diego and started replacing them with other things. I always loved walking and working out in Balboa Park; it’s been a magical place for me where I could restore my sense of inner peace and receive what the Universe had to offer me.

Fast-forward eight weeks to Sitges, Spain, where I lived during the most intense lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe. Every few days I would walk down the mountain to the market, and was most often the only person out on the street. At the market, I would load up with bags of groceries and then walk home. Over time, I could carry more and more, while enjoying the view of the old town, harbor, ocean, and mountain. During these walks I would fall into a deeply reflective state of mind and felt connected once again to everyone and everything in a unique way. It was a stunningly beautiful experience and one of the many steps that redefined me as a “Citizen of the World.”

Sitges, Spain

The same thing happened when I met new people on my journey. I was spending time with wonderful new friends I met like Claes and Inger Martinson at Gotland Island Airport off the coast of Sweden. I ate dinner with them, pulled weeds with them, compared thoughts on the world, and shared my love of aviation while living at their beautiful airport museum prior to taking off to cross the North Pole.

My view of different cultures changed—I saw people cooperating rather than competing. In fact, in some places competing was frowned upon until the age of 12! Growing up I was always encouraged to stand out and be “better” than others. On this expedition I realized my perspective–shaped by my upbringing–was a very different and divisive way to see other people. All the people along the way who helped me, even when it wasn’t necessarily to their initial benefit, helped me see that when we work together, we can accomplish so much more. I came to understand that working together as “Citizens of the World” would  be the only way ahead for the planet as we tackle things that we never would have expected like the coronavirus.

This transformation within me continued to happen in each country I visited. My definition of home changed and expanded. These new elements along with hearing diverse answers from people about what it meant to them to be a “Citizen of the World” gave me greater clarity and began to redefine me. Clearly a time of personal evolution, I did not always feel comfortable in the midst of everything that was happening in the world. At times I felt lost and confused, but I kept choosing faith over fear as this new way of being filtered into my daily life. This perspective flew in the face of what I had been taught. After nine months of exploring the most remote parts of the planet and the most different cultures during some of the most difficult times the world has known, I came to realize the following things about what it means to be a “Citizen of the World”:

A Citizen of the World is someone who doesn’t wait for others to change the world for them. Instead, a Citizen of the World has the courage to go out into the world using whatever resources they can draw upon and become the change they want to see. We must first start with ourselves, and by example, others have the opportunity to learn from our positive actions.

A Citizen of the World respectfully listens to but does not rely on input from others through the media, politics, or religion to formulate their view of the world. They formulate their worldview based on their own global experiences. By traveling outside their home country and meeting others, shaking hands, looking people straight in the eye and seeing that these “others” are struggling just like themselves helps them see we are more the same than different and helps to develop new and lasting bonds. When we see the “common” in common humanity, we are more able to work together to overcome hardships, share in each other’s successes, and shape a better future for everyone and the planet.

A Citizen of the World is someone who can truly listen to what others are saying and feeling. Listening to and feeling what others are communicating totally and completely is the most important thing we can do for another human being. To be truly heard is what we all long for. People have never been taught to truly listen. They try and anticipate what someone is going to say and feel and then start to formulate an answer before the other person is even through talking. We must try to be as present as we can, hold our thoughts in silence and neutrality while others are speaking, and truly and completely hear what this other soul is trying to express. This is a powerful bonding experience that allows our deepest thoughts, truths, and dreams to be revealed to each other. In this process we learn more about ourselves and how powerful and empowering our connection with others can be when we actively listen.

A Citizen of the World rises above the boundaries or borders that people have placed on the world and sees diversity as humanity’s superpower. This superpower is perhaps most noticeable when borders are open. For example, when I’m flying between countries in the Citizen of the World Gulfstream Twin Commander 900 there are no walls or boundaries as I cross over different countries. The only thing while I’m flying that reminds me that I’m in a different state or country are my aviation charts and air traffic control. Flying is the ultimate metaphor for those things that do not divide, restrict or limit. Flying allows us to spread our emotional wings and experience how it feels to connect to the rest of the world without labels, definitions, walls and borders that separate us and instead, flying can bring us together.

A Citizen of the World is someone who has perspective. Flying, thinking, and viewing the Earth at higher altitudes allows us to see the world in a different and more complete way. We can see how things connect, affect others, and calibrate in relation to other things. Imagine standing next to a river versus seeing it from 35,000 feet. From high above, we can connect the dots more easily; things on the ground begin to make more sense. We start to think on a global scale, see how all the players are impacted both upstream and downstream, and act in a unified direction.

A Citizen of the World learns the lessons from life’s challenges so they can continue to grow and expand until everyone and everything is connected as One. Making “mistakes” is part of being human and going for it. There is success even in perceived failure because we have tried. When we let go of self-judgment, we begin to see others and ourselves with awareness and compassion, the two wings of freedom. Our mindful growth increases our positive impact on others and moves the planet forward.

A Citizen of the World is not afraid to be the example by sharing their passion with others. Shared passions, even the ones that are so big they scare us, inspire others to their greatness. Passion ignites a fire in others that encourages them to keep reaching for their impossibly big dreams. Passion can direct humanity to the next step in its collective evolution. Seeing people express their passion and struggle to achieve their goals are such powerful lessons for humanity to learn. Passion transforms fear into courage and paralysis analysis into inspired action on the journey.

From this journey of exploration and growth we learn that the world won’t be changed for the better solely from behind a computer but by going out into the world, making contact with others, and showing kindness and concern for everyone we meet. Seeing and taking the time to really understand the challenges all people share, the emotions we all feel, and the common language of pain and suffering, love and joy, that we all speak is part of sharing the expanding human experience—and it’s so easy to miss when we’re lost in comparison, competition, separation and isolation. The world puts barriers in front of us to test our clarity, determination, and desire for growth. Overcoming these challenges together through respect, listening, diversity, perspective, life-long learning and passion makes us all stronger and connects us globally as One.

The time for this global connection is now! No single person, company or country can do it alone. The world needs this positive change now more than ever and it will take every one of us as “Citizens of the World for the World” working together to manifest a better, more connected, loving, and peaceful world.

One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.

Blessing Circle just prior to Citizen of the World departure at Gillespie Field

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Antarctic route – the South Pole

I wanted to share one of the most interesting graphics of the Polar Expedition with all of you. I believe it captures the drive, determination, courage and ability to dream impossibly big of the entire Flying Thru Life Team while proving technology, moving science ahead and bringing people together in Oneness.

What you see is the 18.1-hour South Pole route of the Citizen of the World with her departure from Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire located at the southern tip of Argentina on December 16, 2019. On departure, a 180-degree turn was required in the narrow channel due to a last-minute wind change when the airplane was heavily ladened with fuel as she flew along the Beagle Channel for about 50 nautical miles.  Citizen of the World turned to the south once she was out over international waters and then just a little to the west in an attempt to ride an 80-100 knot wind from Mother Nature to the South Pole. You can see that about one-third of the way to the South Pole I lost my nerve and gave up on that tailwind because I was burning fuel heading toward the west with no benefit. At that point, I turned straight to the South Pole. When I got there, I did a couple circles (hard to see) —one for the planet and one for the people— and then headed back as directly as my Genesys Aerosystems S-TEC 2100 could do since at that point I had burned more than half my fuel (biofuels were used over the pole).

About 75 miles before and 75 miles after the South Pole, I lost my two flight management systems and was flying using a heading bug on autopilot based on inputs from an old school directional gyro more affectionately known as a “DG.” At this point, I also had a line of position on the sun since I was above the clouds, which reversed as I started to head back.

To compliment ADS-B Out tracking I also had two Nano GPS trackers that were required, installed and certified by the Federation Aeronautique, iPad screenshots, about a million mind-blowing pictures, videos and several recorded voice comms with “Cory” at the South Pole.  All this will be released in the 10-part docuseries and the book called “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth and Beyond.”

The trip back seemed to take much longer as the fatigue set in even though it was a straight shot back over the eastern Antarctic Peninsula and the dreaded Drake Passage until I got about 25 nautical miles from the Beagle Channel. By this point, I had lost satellite comms, (HF never worked) and I made a decision to not enter the instrument approach tired (and afraid), in IMC without air traffic controller comms.  Instead, I decided to descend through the cloud layer over the ocean and fly the last 50 miles back to Ushuaia, Argentina, about 500 feet above the water on fumes and below the rainy cloud layer. This was the part of the trip that I say “broke me open” emotionally, physically, and spiritually and the true learning began for the rest of the trip. For those lessons you will have to check out the docuseries and book.

I want to thank my friends at Iridium for using their newly launched 66 Iridium NEXT Satellites to track me on the longest and most challenging legs of my polar circumnavigation. Iridium obviously didn’t miss a beat on this 4,200 nm leg.

I would like to also thank the good people at Aireon (created by and still partially owned by Iridium) whose payload on the Iridium NEXT satellites was picking up our ADS-B Out signals, and produced for me the beautiful graphic that you see above that is fit for the record books. Certainly, the image above is proof of how well ADS-B Out works, thanks to space-based ADS-B extending traditional ADS-B ground coverage across the oceans and over every inch of the planet.

The tracking would also not have been possible without the help from my friends at L3Harris and their wonderful NGT-9000! Neal Aviation installed the L3 diversity transponder antenna just weeks before departure when they were impossibly busy trying to help customers meet FAA ADS-B Out equipage mandates. In addition to the panel mounted unit, the company also had to install the diversity ADS-B transponder antenna on top of the Gulfstream Twin Commander 900 and through the pressure vessel to make sure we could talk with all those Iridium satellites.

As you can see the polar expedition was clearly “A mission of many not one.” The successful Polar Circumnavigation is a wonderful demonstration of how many inspired people in aviation can work together to move STEM ahead for the planet on a mission of global peace which connected the South Pole with the North Pole as “One Planet, One People, One Plane.”

And now for the worse tease of all…. Can any of you guess what graphic 2 of 2 will be?

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Flying the world in living color

When I started the pole to pole mission on November 16th, 2019, which seems like a lifetime of challenges ago, my team and I were clear on our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.” One of our primary goals was, and continues to be, to see the similarities in people, not the differences.

As I learned on my previous circumnavigation in 2015, I knew the universe would present me with many opportunities and challenges along the way that would test me and my ability to connect with people of different cultures and beliefs—along with a million other things—and hopefully expand my awareness and growth so I could be of greater service to the world.

After successfully crossing the South Pole with its many challenges I felt I had completed the hardest part of the polar circumnavigation and the rest of the trip would be the “Global Victory Lap.” As I was hit by overwhelming challenge after challenge on the South Pole leg, I kept asking myself, “How hard does this have to be? How strong do I need to be? What are you preparing me for?”

What I’ve come to realize is that the South Pole crossing merely served to break me open to be ready for what was to come. As weeks of coronavirus quarantine in Spain turned into months, it became clear that all those South Pole challenges were preparing me to respond to the coronavirus and its impact on humanity and the earth and our mission of global peace. The virus has seemed to split the world apart with great intensity. Many countries have gone it alone by closing off their borders. Isolation seems to have become the solution to our global problems. From my perspective, locking ourselves away, hunkering down, and fighting the natural order of things to move and grow has become a new normal for the world.

While traveling over the past five years to more than 50 countries and working with over 100 sponsors and numerous aircraft mechanics and governments around the world, I’ve learned global issues can’t be solved by working independently—interdependence and collaboration on a local and global level are what build and strengthen relationships and economies. COVID-19 has given humanity an opportunity to come together to find a solution. The world, unfortunately, appears to have missed this lesson and is paying the price as more issues have been created with this contraction and resistance to the natural order of life. Fear has escalated to panic and riots, business decimation, and suicides, while the expansion of political and military control worldwide has ensued.

Clearly, I’m not a political expert, nor do I pretend to be, and I don’t know how things will ultimately turn out and what we as a global community are meant to learn through all this, but I am a global traveler in the Citizen of the World with an impossibly big dream of world peace. Our vision of connecting the South and North Poles and everybody in-between is more important than ever and we hope it serves as an empowering example of connection, collaboration, and possibility in a time when it is sorely needed. As I spoke with local people in the cities I visited about what it means to be a “Citizen of the World for the World,” it has never been more apparent that we are in this together, and our shared humanity is what makes the world go round.

Another big lesson I learned, again from my first circumnavigation, is that all people regardless of their color share a common desire for safety, family, happiness, financial security, health, joy and happiness, and most importantly, love. The way to experience these things, especially when facing fear and adversity, is not by turning away or striking out against each other but by working together courageously with an intention of uniting in our similarities and appreciating our differences. This solidarity creates a better outcome for everyone that reduces fear, encourages understanding, and brings people and our own conflicted minds together in oneness with solutions-based thinking.

Shortly after a Chilean Air Force C-130 mysteriously went down over the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica with 36 souls onboard, I was advised to wait until after the Chilean government knew what happened since this stretch of airspace was on my route to and from the South Pole. I felt fear arise while I considered the risks and the potential delays and ultimately chose to trust in my plane, myself, and our mission, and I flew. When the cyclone was about to overtake Madagascar, and I felt fear rise up again, I faced it, and again I flew. When Spain was locked down tighter than anywhere else in Europe as it became the epicenter of the coronavirus, I encountered resistance every step of the way, and continued to remind myself of our mission of global peace and that all impossibly big dreams have risks to be considered and dealt with, and then I flew. I chose to fight the urge to contract and instead focused on my purpose, expanded my love of Life and trusted in Universe to guide me.

I share all this with you, not to impress you (well, maybe a little) but in hopes of inspiring you during these contracting times to hold your impossibly big dreams close and keep working on yourself to let go of limitations and embrace your possibilities. I won’t pretend these choices have been easy for me; in fact, I’ve been terrified at times. But what keeps me going is wanting to help as many people as possible around the world overcome their fears and take the courageous action that is needed to experience all that Life has to offer.

Our Flying Thru Life team is dedicated to being a living example of what is possible when people from all countries work together. Rather than running from challenges, when uncertainty and difficult times show up, we revisit our ideals and support each other through them. This is what we stand for. This is who we are. This is what we dream of for the world.

We are all stronger together. As “Citizens of the World for the World,” we rededicate ourselves to our global community and our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.”

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Crossing the North Pole three times

Yesterday as I prepared for my first ever North Pole crossing things were going pretty smoothly. Almost too smoothly. I’m used to last minute surprises especially before taking off. But then I remembered I’ve had over 18 months to prepare for this leg. I thought maybe the Universe was finally going to throw me a bone. The taxi showed up on time the morning of departure, the airport manager let him on the ramp—which never happens, the new coordinates for my flight worked in the Flight Management System, I had no leaking fuel from the plane after fueling the night before, the tires held air, the emergency oxygen was near full, the nitrogen charge was still within limits…it was almost hard to believe. The Citizen of the World was in all her glory, fierce and it was a fantastic thing to see.

The good fortune continued as the airport allowed me to take off early without charging me, the tower operator showed up early and got me into the air traffic control system on the ground, and the engines fired right up as they always do. All avionics systems came online immediately, and I thought “Isn’t life wonderful!” I started down the runway like a bat out of hell with enough fuel to get me back to Alaska in the United States after being away for eight very long months. I still had six weeks to go to be back in San Diego but I was getting closer.

As I climbed above the solid cloud layer that extended all the way to Alaska things were going well. I had a great climb rate even with the extra fuel. I flew over Svalbard, Norway, which had been rejecting my departure requests for over a month. I thought skipping one stop reduced my risk and it was time to get going while the North Pole was a nice warm -43 Celsius compared to the -60C I experience near the South Pole.

About two hours out of Kiruna, Sweden, I was beyond VHF radio comms range and my luck started to change. My HF radio was not picking up anything and I was at a wrong-way altitude. My satellite phone calls to Bodo Oceanic control over the most remote part of the planet didn’t work either. I got through to Oceanic control on my satellite phone I just couldn’t hear a word they were saying, and I assumed they couldn’t hear me either. Considering I had eight hours of open ocean flying to do this was going to be a major problem.

One-hundred-fifty miles from the True North Pole things really started to happen. My two flight management systems/GPS units started to fall offline since they didn’t have a satellite signal. This was odd since this didn’t happen until about 75 miles from the South Pole. I figured there would be more coverage over the North Pole since it was a more traveled route. My autopilot would still hold in heading mode, so I made the adjustment and continued on my way using my iPad. “No problem,” I thought as this felt like old times over the South Pole!

About 25 miles from the True North Pole things got really scary. One of my Attitude Heading & Reference Systems went offline. I remember thinking, “this is why I have two ADAHRS systems.”  I flipped the switch and nothing. With the loss of the units I also lost the autopilot. The airplane jerked to one side and I began to attempt to take it offline at 30,000 feet. The yoke cutoff switch chirped but didn’t stop the turn. I was fighting the autopilot at this point and pushed the off button on the autopilot unit itself, but it still didn’t work. At this point, I felt like the Universe was conspiring against me and had a thought that this was how those 737 Max planes went down. I reached over to the left and pulled the autopilot circuit breaker with the yellow cap I had marked so it was easy to find in a jam. That was my last hope short of shutting the power completely off over the North Pole which sounded, in a word, “terrifying.” This emergency was making no sense to me. But just as I pulled the breaker the resistance faded away and I felt a slight sigh of relief.

Crossing the Magnetic South Pole I got a brief look at the snow, ice and water the ground through the clouds.

To put things into perspective, I’m five hours of flight time from land, 30,000 feet up over a cloud layer at a wrong-way altitude doing almost 400 mph over the North Pole with no comms. I was using only my iPad to navigate, hand flying in RVSM airspace (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum) that requires an autopilot to maintain precise flight level with no autopilot and by myself. My first non-Zen words were unprintable in a family publication. So much for an easy flight across the True North Pole, the Magnetic North Pole and the North Pole of Inaccessibility!

What I did have was a visual horizon for the time being, two working Honeywell TPE 331-10T engines, two kick-ass MT 5 bladed scimitar nickel tipped composite props, and about three hours of extra fuel which could potentially just extend my misery as I flew in circles around the North Pole while my followers wondered why my track on the InReach explorer was so erratic. I had a directional gyro and knew it would hold my course for a time but as I turned from the North Pole, to the Magnetic North Pole, and finally to the North Pole of Inaccessibility, I got confused and knew it couldn’t hold a course forever.

As if to tease or taunt me, the flight management systems would periodically come online but then fall offline a short time later. This felt like cosmic torture as I had conflicting heading information from multiple points on my panel. My magnetic compass said one thing, my two flight management systems/GPS units had a different heading, my L3 backup system said something else, my directional gyro offered another heading, and my radar display showed yet another heading. “Which do I believe?” I thought. “Will I run out of fuel or fly in circles over the North Pole?”

As I was trying to hold the altitude constant in an airspace that was separated by 500 feet from opposing traffic I start shutting down and restarting the failed systems. The ADAHRS tried to realign in motion but couldn’t do its two-minute alignment. Eventually I realized the flight management systems appeared to have the aircraft flying backwards along the track for a time, then one would right and then go backwards. I was totally confused and trying to make sense out of the conflicting information.

Now I was seriously scared. I was very much alone, and the laws of physics didn’t seem to apply. There were no reference points in the cloud layer below me as far as the eye could see and a bunch of red Xs across my screen. I couldn’t help but wonder what a mess I had gotten myself into. I thought they would be talking about this for a long time. The naysayers were going to have a field day.

I took a minute to take a few deep “Zen” breaths in the midst of the shit storm that was unfolding around me. I took a personal inventory and realized I was still in the air, was straight and level, and wasn’t out of options yet. This was fast becoming a test of my faith.

As I moved between the True North Pole, the Magnetic North Pole, and the North Pole of Inaccessibility I was mostly hand-flying and occasionally overpowering the autopilot when it didn’t want to turn.

As I continued to hand fly, I realized my autopilot could maintain altitude and it seemed to fly on a heading once I set it but needed to be restarted to program a new heading. Next I realized that my Apple iPad seemed to be as accurate as it had been over the South Pole as well. How odd that a $1,000 iPad was working when $100,000 of avionics seemed totally confused. Flying like this was of course totally illegal but I had no choice. I was doing what my instructors had told me to do, which was “just fly the plane.” I was lucky to have a visual horizon above the clouds for as far as the eye could see.

I expected the failed systems to come back online in about 30 minutes but to my surprise everything stayed offline until I reached the coast of Alaska some five hours later. I literally watched as one system failed and then would come back online with the information making no sense. It was extremely stressful, and I was searching for the lesson in all of this. When the systems came back online at the coast of Alaska, they acted like the bad school kid who misbehaves when the teacher is out of the room and then reverts to becoming the perfect angel when the teacher returns. I realized that the issue was the lack of a satellite signal and not that the systems weren’t working.

Eventually as I got close to the coast of Alaska, I realized that the weather was not the broken clouds that were forecast at Prudhoe Bay/Dead Horse. Instead, I had 300-foot ceilings. Being as that I had been flying for so long and had 3.5 hours of fuel left, I decided to extend my flight for another hour-and-a-half to land in Fairbanks where I was hoping to meet my film crew the following day. As a side note, on my first call to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the director told me he could arrest me, impound my airplane and severely fine me if I landed in Prudhoe Bay where they didn’t have an agent.  When I told him my first priority was my life and that weather over vast distances was unpredictable as was aircraft equipment, he told me if I had planned better I wouldn’t be having such a problem. I hung up feeling a bit defeated. About two hours later I got a call back from the director and he said I could land in Prudhoe Bay for an overnight stay but would have to call Customs when I landed, and be in Fairbanks the next day.

It is hard to put into words how I felt when I landed in Fairbanks, Alaska. We had a mechanic and restaurant owner at the airport come over and snap a few pictures. Myself and the film crew that had just arrived by car were offered a delicious pizza lunch by the Wendy, the owner. As we ate, I stared at the plane with a blank expression on my face, exhausted, and in total disbelief of what had just transpired. I felt shock, pride, and relief all at the same time, and just wanted to sleep for a day. My focus was so narrow it was impossible to comprehend what I had just pulled off and the impact it would have on our mission—and I hoped—on the world. Calls and messages would come in for the next 48 hours congratulating me and my team. Most of them had no idea what I had been through, but I was so touched by those that reached out in the most-kind way.

One example that summed up the Citizen of the World’s challenges during the Polar Circumnavigation was from Eddie Gould, one of my handlers from General Aviation Support Egypt.

“Adventures like yours do inspire and create so much more than what you have personally achieved. Having this adventure during one of the world’s most horrific periods must rank high above many of the worthy exploits undertaken by [other] pilots.

I guess we, on the ground, have felt invested in your quest in a way that others would not. Your successes in the air are also ours. I have a massive smile, and I know Ahmed does too, when we get something approved, or a plan works out or even when you say  ‘this hotel is fantastic,’ the work we do in the background can be enjoyable, satisfying and at times…frustrating…like when you lose comms or someone doesn’t answer a phone in an office 7,000 miles away. But your adventures create the memories for us too…and this adventure is yours and our crowning glory…you took on everything the planet could throw at you, faced dangers in every corner of the globe and even had to change everything you knew about to become a Spanish recluse and then a Viking hermit!

I hope you make the book at least half as exciting as the reality was…and by the way…the aircraft was amazing and beautiful :-).”

I’m so happy to share this adventure with all of you and my hope is that it will in some way inspire you to go into the world and be a positive force in the world. To shine as brightly as you can and to allow your dreams to become your reality.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Crossing the North Pole (late night thoughts)


It’s 3 a.m. in a lonely hotel room in Northern Europe in the midst of worldwide quarantines. The world seems to be spiraling out of control in panic and fear, and once again, I can’t sleep. With the North Pole crossing looming over me just a few days away, my inner child just vomited with fear because he knows I’m taking him along like it or not—again. I keep tearing up when I think about all I’ve been through so far. I’ve been away for seven months and it’s looking like it will take another two months when I had originally planned for five months total. I’m fatigued, somewhat confident, and people still are calling me crazy—at least that last part is consistent.

This North Pole crossing has been perfectly planned just like the longer, and much more difficult, South Pole leg six months earlier. That 18-hour leg stressed me physically, emotionally, and broke me open spiritually. But that doesn’t keep my mind from thinking about all the possible issues the universe could throw my way this time.

The Citizen of the World is working well after the repair of two of my ferry tanks, which burst after a misalignment that caused a dumping of about 175 gallons of jet fuel inside the modified Gulfstream Turbo Commander 900, a starter-generator failure in flight, and a hydraulic fluid leak from the co-pilot-side brake caliper. Who can help but wonder what will happen next?

The North Pole Leg is approximately two-thirds the distance of the South Pole Leg. I can’t make it without the ferry tanks—two of which carry biofuels.

This is the ideal time of the year for an open ocean and ice flight as the Arctic temps are the warmest, which is good for avoiding potential fuel gelling and engine operating issues. But like everything in aviation, there is also a downside. There is a lot of fog down low this time of the year. Low fog makes it difficult for an emergency landing. Luckily, I have a ground radar that works pretty well for helping to determine my height above the ground or water in case I have to do a blind landing.

I’m well prepared with respect to survival gear, training, and support. In fact, I couldn’t be more prepared.

Unlike the South Pole, the North Pole is crossed often by commercial jets, maybe not as much now with the quarantines. That gives me some comfort that I will have some more experienced pilots in the air with me that could offer assistance if needed.

My route to cross the three north poles (magnetic, true, and the North Pole of Inaccessibility) has been charted out, along with the points to shift from magnetic to true navigation, as well as my alternates.

The plan is to leave from Longyearbyen Airport in Svalbard, Norway, after a 24-hour tech stop for fuel while being quarantined in the airport hotel. From Longyearbyen it’s just a 2,000-nautical-mile flight to Alaska. In this case, I would be up around 32,000 feet for only about 8 hours. That far north the winds aren’t too bad. But, as of today, the communications seem to have become confused and now require a departure from Kiruna in northern Sweden, which pushes the distance out to 3,000 nm and 11 hours of flight time, requiring the use of more ferry tanks. I’ll have more than enough time to think about all that can go wrong. At some point, I know from experience, I will relax into all of it and just accept my fate the gods have planned for me. You can’t be afraid forever—or at least I would like to think that on some level.

At least I know what to expect with respect to navigation this time. It will all fail except the iPad (which somehow did not over the South Pole and I still do not know why). My directional gyro will work, and of course, the position of the sun will be reliable, assuming I can see it. I will cheat the flight management system this time by putting a waypoint before and after the pole.

The incredible stress from the first flight opened me up and changed the person that I am, teaching me some of the most important lessons of my life. I’ve reframed my fear into looking forward to the growth that lies ahead over the North Pole; and, of course, praying to be an inspiration to others while having the most positive impact on the planet.

Miraculous. Impossible. I’ve got this.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Flying the world in living color

When I started the Pole to Pole mission on November 16, 2019, which seems like a lifetime of challenges ago, my team and I were clear on our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.” One of our primary goals was, and continues to be, to see the similarities in people, not the differences.

As I learned on my previous circumnavigation, I knew I would encounter many opportunities and challenges along the way that would test me and my ability to connect with people of different cultures and beliefs along with a million other things and hopefully expand my awareness and growth so I could be of greater service to the world.

After successfully crossing the South Pole with its many challenges, I felt I had completed the hardest part of the Polar Circumnavigation and the rest of the trip would be the “Global Victory Lap.” As I was hit by overwhelming challenge after challenge on the South Pole leg, I kept asking myself, “How hard does this have to be? How strong do I need to be? What are you preparing me for?”

What I’ve come to realize is that the South Pole crossing merely served to break me open to be ready for what was to come. As weeks of coronavirus quarantine in Spain turned into months, it became clear that all those South Pole challenges were preparing me to respond to the coronavirus and its impact on humanity, the earth, and our mission of global peace. The virus has seemed to split the world apart with great intensity. Many countries have gone it alone by closing off their borders. Isolation seems to have become the solution to our global problems. From my perspective, locking ourselves away, hunkering down, and fighting the natural order of things to move and grow has become a new normal for the world.

While traveling over the past five years to more than 50 countries and working with over 100 sponsors and numerous aircraft mechanics and governments around the world, I’ve learned global issues can’t be solved by working independently—interdependence and collaboration on a local and global level are what build and strengthen relationships and economies. COVID-19 has given humanity an opportunity to come together to find a solution. The world, unfortunately, appears to have missed this lesson and is paying the price as more issues have been created with this contraction and resistance to the natural order of life. Fear has escalated to panic and riots, business decimation, and suicides, while the expansion of political and military control worldwide has ensued.

Clearly, I’m not a political expert, nor do I pretend to be, and I don’t know how things will ultimately turn out and what we as a global community are meant to learn through all this, but I am a global traveler in the “Citizen of the World” with an impossibly big dream of world peace. Our vision of connecting the South and North Poles and everybody in-between is more important than ever, and we hope it serves as an empowering example of connection, collaboration, and possibility in a time when it is sorely needed. As I continue to interview local people in the cities I visit on what it means to be a “Citizen of the World for the World,” it has never been more apparent that we are in this together and our shared humanity is what makes the world go round.


Another big lesson I’m learning, again from my first circumnavigation, is that all people regardless of their color share a common desire for safety, family, happiness, financial security, health, joy and happiness, and most importantly, love. The way to experience these things, especially when facing fear and adversity, is not by turning away or striking out against each other but by working together courageously with an intention of uniting in our similarities and appreciating our differences. This solidarity creates a better outcome for everyone that reduces fear, encourages understanding, and brings people and our own conflicted minds together in oneness with solutions-based thinking.

Shortly after the Chilean Air Force C-130 mysteriously went down over the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica with 36 souls onboard, I was advised to wait until after the Chilean government knew what happened since this stretch of airspace was on my route to and from the South Pole. I felt fear arise while I considered the risks and the potential delays and ultimately chose to trust in my airplane, myself, and our mission, and I flew. When the cyclone was about to overtake Madagascar, and I felt fear rise up again, I faced it, and again I flew. When Spain was locked down tighter than anywhere else in Europe as it became the epicenter of the coronavirus, I encountered resistance every step of the way, and continued to remind myself of our mission of global peace and that all impossibly big dreams have risks to be considered and dealt with, and then I flew. I chose to fight the urge to contract and instead focused on my purpose, expanded my love of life and trusted in Universe to guide me.

I share all this with you, not to impress you (well, maybe a little) but in hopes of inspiring you during these contracting times to hold your impossibly big dreams close and keep working on yourself to let go of limitations and embrace your possibilities. I won’t pretend these choices have been easy for me; in fact, I’ve been terrified at times. But what keeps me going is wanting to help as many people as possible around the world overcome their fears and take the courageous action that is needed to experience all that life has to offer.

Our Flying Thru Life team is dedicated to being a living example of what is possible when people from all countries work together. Rather than running from challenges, when uncertainty and difficult times show up, we revisit our ideals and support each other through them. This is what we stand for. This is who we are. This is what we dream of for the world.

We are all stronger together. As “Citizens of the World for the World,” we rededicate ourselves to our global community and our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.”

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Escaping from Spain in a GA aircraft during a pandemic: Pulling off the impossible

As pilots, we know that at some point our skills diminish and it becomes very dangerous not to fly. In the past, I would fly every week to keep my skill set as sharp as possible. This was a promise I made to myself when I first started flying; my intention was to keep myself alive. If I waited any longer than a week, I would start to feel nervous. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s now been almost eight weeks since I have even started the engines on the Citizen of the World, much less lifted off. Honestly, I’m scared.

After being quarantined in Spain for almost two months, getting out with my general aviation airplane would prove to be a very complicated endeavor, because the country was locked down so tightly and immersed in fear. With their older population, Spain had been the hardest-hit nation in Europe. My general sense was that people were terrified that COVID-19 was going to get every last one of them. I was getting word that the Spanish government was not going to open the country to tourism until September  at the absolute earliest. Considering that Spain normally collected $200 billion in tourist revenue every year, you could see how scared the govenment/people really were. If I waited until September, it would be too late for me to cross over the North Pole safely; temps would be too low for the Citizen of the World and fuel gelling could take both engines offline.

My travel plans to Switzerland were no longer realistic; it is also a very conservative country and would require a special visa which would take months to get approved, even if I could somehow collect all the required documents in the middle of a pandemic. This was a bummer because we had planned a photo assignment  over the Matterhorn in the Alps with my Swiss friend Andre Mueller. Switzerland also had some great mechanics that I had trusted twice before to work on my last airplane during an equatorial circumnavigation and a European summer trip.

The next departure possibility was via a route to England, but there was no ground transportation and nowhere to stay once I arrived. Plus, I would definitely need some help on the ground so this plan could be potentially trading good for bad. At the last minute the British government enacted a mandatory two-week self-quarantine for everyone entering the country, scrapping the idea anyway.

The final option was repositioning to Malmo, Sweden. The country had been practicing herd immunity and the numbers were closely in line with neighboring countries that had been using strict quarantines to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The death curve had flattened, and I calculated a .000095% risk of death given the population size. Compared to the 50% risk I experienced over the South Pole, that seemed like odds I would take all day long. In Sweden I would be able to fly my plane around the country as much as I wanted, get some maintenance for Citizen, and wait out the pandemic. Word was that Sweden would be open to the outside world (and my camera crew) on the June 15.

To make this seemingly impossible task happen required a number of steps and several very generous, persistent, and inspired people helping me in both Sweden and Spain.

Step 1: Get to the airport in Spain

First, I needed to get to the aircraft in Barcelona, Spain, which was 372 miles away from my “Zen Villa” in Sitges. A few emails to the U.S. Embassy showed me I could travel as long as I was leaving the country.

The exception that most often applies to the U.S. citizens that we are assisting is: “to return to once’s place of residence.” The Ministry of Interior has specified that third-country citizens returning to their country of habitual residence are exempted from the movement restrictions.

Determining which activities fall under the above exceptions or any subsequent expanded exceptions is entirely up to the Spanish authorities. We do not have the authority to grant permission to travel within Spain or grant waivers of Spanish laws.

As a backup, I found out Spanish citizens could travel with written permission from their employers, so I had the DeLaurentis Foundation issue a letter showing I was a pilot and an employee supporting the expedition.

The U.S. embassy also directed me to the front cover of my passport, which I thought sounded rather official and would help me justify my movements.

As luck would have it, there were no checkpoints along the way and I drove to the airport without issue as my Spanish police officer friend Meritxell followed in another car.

Step 2: Get to the airplane

With the help of a Spanish friend and fellowpolar circumnavigator Michel Gordillo, I was able to email the Assistant Airport Manager at Cuatro Vientos. I sent him an email pleading my case and asking for access. He said it was possible as long as I was escorted on the field by someone with access. When I was unable to find anyone willing to escort me to my plane after days of trying, I decided to show up and see if I could do it on my own. I talked to a helpful man in the flight plan office and he spoke to police security. I mentioned I had an email from the airport manager, and, to my delight, security just waved me through.

Step 3: Get permission to fly out of Spain

To encourage the Spanish to let me go on my way, I found out that Dr. Dimitri Deheyn, our lead scientist for the atmospheric plastics pollution experiment, was trying to determine if COVID-19 could be transferred on the plastic particles that we were already testing for in the atmosphere. He provided a letter that showed my departure flight was a critical opportunity to test the air over Madrid and all the way out of the country for the virus.

With the help of Michel Gordillo, who called the Spanish Police, the Flight Plan Office, Customs and Immigration, I was told that I would be allowed to leave the country and that if I submitted a proper flight plan it would be accepted by Eurocontrol. From their perspective, it was one less American to worry about and less possible coronavirus risk. (Not to mention Michel would stop calling them every 30 minutes with more questions until they let me out of the country).

Step 4: Get permission to fly into Sweden

Johan Wiklund, an Airbus A320 Flight Commander at SAS Scandinavian Airlines who flew an antique British Gypsy Moth biplane from Sweden to South Africa, was also instrumental. He helped put Eddie Gold and Ahmed Hassan Mohamed — my flight handlers from General Aviation Support Egypt (G.A.S.E.)— in touch with an FBO in Sweden called Aviator Airport Services, which then got me permission to fly into Sweden. Johan also connected me with a mechanic who could repair the Gulfstream Turbo Commander 900’s ferry tanks for my leg over the North Pole.

Step 5:  Come up with a flight plan Eurocontrol will accept

This is where the genius of Ahmed Hassan Mohamed from G.A.S.E. helped save the day. Normally, I would use the autoroute function on Rocket Route to find my way through the complicated airspaces of Europe. On this 4-hour, 1,200-nm flight I needed to go through Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany on my path into Sweden. After a couple of hours, he came back with the route you see above. It had over 40 waypoints and airways, but it worked, and he filed it for me.

Step 6: Don’t get quarantined on arrival in Sweden

With the rules changing daily, preventing Sweden from putting me into a two-week quarantine once I arrived was a concern. Michel had suggested a plan, and with the help of my friend MeritxelI I was able to get two tests for the COVID-19 virus before I departed Barcelona. Both tests involved a drive to Barcelona, 36 kilometers to the north. The first test involved taking swabs of my mouth and sinuses that would tell if I currently had the coronavirus. The second test required a sample of my blood and would indicate if I had already had the virus. A positive result here would greatly improve my chances of moving around Sweden and other countries uninterrupted. In three days I got the results, which were both negative. Having some documentation that that I didn’t have the virus as of a certain date would be helpful in making my case that quarantine was not required.

Step 7: Last-minute servicing

The Citizen of the World is indeed a high-performance, high-maintenance aircraft, and upon examination I determined that she needed the emergency oxygen for breathing and the nitrogen for the landing gear charged. The mechanics from Aircraft Total Service were able to help with this, and I was ready to go.

We all know that no great plan ever goes off without a hitch — so as luck would have it, the police came rolling up to do a ramp check on my aircraft as I was getting readying for engine startup. They asked where I was intending to go. Michel Gordillo, the former Spanish airline pilot, was again working behind the scenes, talking with them and letting the officers know whom he had spoken with, the fact that nothing had changed since I had been granted permission to leave a week earlier, and the reasons why they should let me go. After they asked some questions and checked my registration number on the aircraft, they left, wishing me luck on my trip.

The actual flight had my knees knocking on departure, as I would be going from 0 to 308 knots during the flight. Life was about to accelerate to the speed of life once again.

With no other planes in the sky, I was granted permission to depart without delay. The actual flight was busy — as I got reacquainted with the many complex systems on the Citizen, I was uploading databases and relaxing into what I have always believed aviation to be…one of the deepest meditations available to a soul.

Landing in Sweden, I expected to be met by security, a handler, and medical personnel that would take my temperature and assess my condition. However, there was only a security officer who gave me a ride to the terminal, where I walked directly through to the taxi stand and was headed to my hotel in minutes.

I felt a great sense of relief as I arrived at my hotel in Malmo. It felt like I had just been sprung from prison using a well-executed plan and a team of professionals. The following day I met Johan, his wife, his kids, and his tower operator friend Axel. We were eating carrot cake Johan’s daughter made in their kitchen later that day, talking about our aviation adventures past, present, and future — and I couldn’t help but think about how aviation brought us together on my mission of One Planet, One People, One Plane.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Lighten your emotional load for the post-coronavirus world

As pilots and evolving souls we are always looking for ways to lighten the load that we carry. Doing so improves the performance of our aircraft. It allows us to fly farther, faster, and higher.  Basically, reducing the weight and as a result the drag allows the plane to do what it was designed to do better. For us as humans, lightening our emotional load allows us to perform better as well, both on the ground and in the air. This is especially true at a time when there is turmoil in the world with the coronavirus at an all-time high. Since we have no idea how things will end up in the next day, month, or year, lightening our emotional load by making some personal changes will help us to be ready for whatever the Universe throws our way. These changes will free up bandwidth, make us more agile, and allow us to get ready for the next big opportunity that comes our way.

When I was preparing for the Polar Circumnavigation in Citizen of the World, I knew I would have to make personal changes to ensure the success of such an ambitious project with so many moving parts. Short of cloning myself, I knew I would have to be lighter, more efficient, and more at peace in order to form a successful team; locate, buy, and modify an airplane to set world records; solicit sponsor support; find a workable route; train myself; get the required permits; and identify any and all risk—and eventually mitigate it.

The areas I identified where change could lighten my emotional load included:

Seek expert help. Build a team of experts to support your effort. I knew that I needed people that shared my passion of bringing peace to the world from Pole to Pole, including people with expertise in many different fields like public relations, social media, accounting, aviation law, engineering, editing, web design, and psychology — just to name a few. There is no way any one person could possibly have a level of expertise in so many diverse areas. Knowing you have the backing of inspired experts will ease your stress and make the journey safer and more fun.

Build yourself a sanctuary. Chances are you will be pushing yourself to your limits as I did over the South Pole. As you go after new opportunities, you will need to find a quiet, clean, peaceful, and drama-free environment to return to each night. Your sanctuary is the place you will melt into so you can start fresh each day. This is also the place where you can find silence and be open to what the Universe has for you. Your purpose and mission will be revealed with time. There is no need to overthink these questions; instead, focus on removing your distractions and any resistance to being open.

Seek solutions. By learning more about the field that is so intriguing, you will find some of the solutions you seek. It usually takes 10 years to become an expert in a field so you should get started right away. You will need to be more knowledgeable than your competition. With the vast resources available online these days you should be able to find enough information to keep you busy for a long time. This is a classic case of eating the elephant one bite at a time.

Believe in yourself. When I started my Polar Expedition preparations, I had a larger group of friends. Some of them were downers who sucked energy from me and interacting with them left me depleted. I cut many of these people out of my life, as well as those that had zero impact, to create space for the new people that I would attract that were in better alignment with me and more up lifting.

Open your mind. It’s time to connect to the collective conscience. It’s the sum of all human knowledge from the beginning of time. Many believe it’s where all those great ideas, intuition, and downloads come from. You know when you had a download, because the answer suddenly pops into your mind and makes total sense. You will say to yourself, “Oh my God, why didn’t I think of that before?” It will hit you like a lightning bolt.

Learn to dream impossibly big. Don’t be afraid to go after what may seem impossible to you and in the process shine as brightly as you can. When I first decided to make an attempt at a Polar Circumnavigation it seemed so much bigger than me. It had never been done nonstop in a turboprop aircraft and the chances looked a bit slim. If it doesn’t make you a bit nervous, your dream wasn’t big enough. What is the harm in trying? Even in failure there is success because you learn. For lessons in dreaming impossibly big please see my first book Flying Thru Life.

Let go of self-judgment. This is the voice in your head that makes negative comments and tells you what you “should” do. Give yourself a break. Taking on big projects can be difficult, and you are putting yourself out there — so if you are going to tell yourself a story, do what Don Miguel Ruiz suggests and make it a good one! You need all the support you can get and that includes being your own cheerleader at every opportunity. It’s called “self-love” and may be the most important thing we learn on the planet as souls having a human experience.

Find a mentor. Most people advance in life to the point where their own limitations stop them like they have hit a wall. Unfortunately, that is the place many people will stay. You have to break through that wall; otherwise, many of life’s opportunities will pass you by. It’s difficult to see your own situation because you are down in the trenches. You need someone who has faced similar challenges and can guide you over or around them, depending on the situation. The person you seek will have a sense of intuition that is almost otherworldly. This person will have perspective that you don’t. My suggestion is to find the best person you can get. It might cost you some money, but it will be well worth it and will pay off many times over (see: www.messengersonamission.com).

Hand off some projects. When I decided to take on the Polar Expedition, I knew I needed a lot more of my time to pull it off successfully. I hired an expert property management company to manage my real estate investments and it freed up over 50 hours of my time per week. With this move, I also tripled my income which is helping fund the efforts of the DeLaurentis Foundation.

Embrace a new world. Finally, take action and embrace the new life that citizens of the world are currently presented. It’s the Universe’s way of shaking things up and giving us new opportunities to grow. To do this, we must sometimes push past the considerable resistance.

Fortune favors the bold and taking chances is what separates people who succeed and those that must return to go! There isn’t much competition at the top of the pyramid, and with adversity always comes many opportunities. So, your new lighter, faster and more agile way of being will pay big dividends. You will have more bandwidth and will be uniquely prepared for anything that comes your way as a Citizen of the World!

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently flying his second record-breaking circumnavigation from Pole to Pole in his aircraft “Citizen of the World,” on a global peace mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.
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