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Author: Robert DeLaurentis (page 1 of 2)

World peace vacation or expedition?

“If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” –Anonymous

This expedition is amazing and to some it could seem like a vacation because I’m living my impossibly big dream and experiencing so much joy during my polar circumnavigation in Citizen of the World.

However, for me, it is a working mission. Whether I’m wearing my immersion suit in case of a water evacuation, dressed in my flight suit with sponsor logos during public events, or dressed in casual street clothes as I stopover in cities, I have never worked harder than I am on this trip—or in the past two years preparing for and overcoming so many obstacles to be able to do this polar circumnavigation.

I fly solo for most legs, requiring intense concentration and multitasking in a highly modified airplane that involves extensive upkeep. On stopovers to 26 countries I serve as an informal ambassador for the United States and worldwide sponsors while meeting many people speaking many different languages with many different customs as we share the things that are important to all of us as “Citizens of the World.”

That’s not to say I’m not making time when I’m on the ground to build in downtime. I do. I have to—for stress management and for recovery with the schedule we keep. But there is an important distinction. The Flying Thru Life mission is all about living life with grace, ease, and joy. These qualities are experienced as a result of purpose-driven work that comes with a lot of sweat equity along the way. Through my aircraft Citizen of the World, I and my team are on a mission for peace and global sustainability for the planet. If you consider that description a vacation, then everyone should experience that kind of vacation. Our primary goal is connecting the two places on the planet where peace has always existed—the North and South poles—and everyone in between.

To do this we have a business plan, goals and objectives, 10 team members, over 90 sponsors, and thousands of followers asking to be kept informed of our plans and results.

While on this expedition, I’m writing another book about this experience titled Citizen of the World: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. It’s work for me because after each leg I sit down at my computer for several hours while things are still fresh in my mind and break the experience down into moment-by-moment detail. It’s difficult to see how things connect and what this expedition means without reflecting on or pondering in hindsight about the relationships between events, but it still makes sense to get the details down on paper. This will be my third book and I’m 100+ pages into it already. Writing a book is a huge commitment and involves challenges and personal growth since life often gets in the way. For me, writing is cathartic and effortful. My style is very intense and raw, involving the conversations that are going on in my head and often not spoken. It takes work to get them onto paper.

We are also filming a world-class documentary about the expedition titled Citizen of the World: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond that is intended to complement the book and, Gods willing, to be sold to Netflix. The Flying Thru Life team has been so fortunate to attract director and cinematographer Jeremy LaZelle and production coordinator Kristin Gates to our project. Jeremy has produced and directed for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet. Kristin is a world-class adventurer and accomplished speaker with achievements including being the first woman to hike the Brooks Range in the absolute cold of the Alaskan winter.

Our documentary involves flying all over the world in a highly modified aircraft; meeting all different types of people; and talking to them about what peace looks and feels like to them, what it means to be a “Citizen of the World,” and what advice they have for the rest of the world on how to live a meaningful life. The documentary has an aviation theme with the aircraft Citizen of the World setting world records along the way that involve taking airplane and pilot to their absolute limits.

The goal here is to show the world that we are more similar than different, and we are connected in Oneness: One Planet, One People, One Plane. We had hoped to film five terabytes of film for the documentary in six months and just six weeks into a six-month trip we are already at four terabytes. The team has been working hard and I’m so proud of the quality of their “art.”

While traveling, I am still involved via internet and voice calls in my adventure publishing company’s executive and creative decisions. We are about to release our first children’s adventure book titled The Little Plane That Could. In many ways this can be more difficult than writing a book for adults. Getting the voice correct for a children’s audience requires thinking differently and simplifying complex situations and emotions into words and images a 6-year-old can connect to. We have been working with our illustrator and are on our fourth edit with publication expected in the first quarter of 2020.

Let’s not forget the Citizen also carries some pretty cool science on board this expedition that involves communication with University of California – Santa Barbara scientists and other organizations. Did you know NASA is flying with us? We have a wafer-scale spacecraft mounted inside the airplane. It’s a proof-of-concept that opens the heavens for future space travel. It seems the best way to explore the universe in the future isn’t going to be with astronauts flown in capsules on top of heavy rocket motors using thousands of gallons of rocket fuel—but with circuit boards that will be blasted out into space using electromagnetic cannons at a rate of one every 15 minutes. It’s our quest for connecting with the possibility of life on other planets and making the unknown in outer space known that can pull us together as a planet of humans seeking peace and goodwill.

The Citizen of the World bridges the gap between earth and space with our technology as well. We use satellite communication for weather updates, phone calls, texting, and music as well as multiple GPS systems and ADS-B In and Out.

On this expedition I’m also collecting microfiber/plastic particles for the Dimitri Deheyn Lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography led by scientist Dr. Dimitri Deheyn. I apply and reapply 3M sticky tape at four points on the airplane—two points on the nose and one on each wing tip. The samples need to be carefully placed before each flight, meticulously removed, stored, logged in a spreadsheet, and placed in storage inside the airplane at the completion of each leg. We are testing to see if microfibers exist in the air all the way around the planet including over the poles. They have been found in all major bodies of water on the planet as well as on the ground all over the world. Connecting them all to the atmosphere would be a major research outcome and another reason for everyone on the planet to pull together to sustain our home here on earth.

These experiments also support our science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) goal on this expedition. This January, while en route I will begin a virtual teaching project with Reach the World, a global network organization that transforms the energy of travelers into a learning resource for K-12 classrooms. I will appear via Skype, presenting the message of Citizen of the World for the World in classrooms around the United States to reinforce Reach the World’s mission to “help elementary and secondary school students and teachers to develop the knowledge, attitudes, values and thinking skills needed for responsible citizenship in a complex, culturally diverse and rapidly changing world.” This will involve answering questions for the kids and keeping them informed about what our team is doing and the challenges and obstacles that must be overcome to make a mission like this work.

We quickly learned when we began filming our documentary that it is the next generation that will bear the responsibility for working together to solve the planet’s major challenges like climate change, pollution, nuclear proliferation, and world peace. This is a huge job, but I’m inspired by the enthusiasm in everyone I’ve talked with. Some conversations have left me with tears of joy running down my face and given me hope for a future that we all dream of—where peace, love, and happiness guide our choices, our actions, and our lives.

Finally, there is the issue of keeping the Citizen of the World flying safely at peak performance. This 26-year-old Turbine Commander 900 aircraft is a wonder of modern technology having just completed a never-done-before 18-hour solo flight over the South Pole. Modifications to this 1983 aircraft have taken more than three years and brought other issues to the surface as we have asked more and more of it.

This airplane is my obsession and learning its systems on a level deeper than I ever imagined possible is beyond anything I’ve ever undertaken. Keeping an eagle eye on Citizen—inspecting every outer surface and part with every takeoff and landing, double- and triple-checking every instrument and unit inside the airplane, and repairing when necessary along the route—is a full-time job in itself. The twin-engine Citizen of the World is many times more complicated than an unpressurized single-engine piston aircraft with minimal avionics, and our smaller budget means that I oversee and manage all communication with service and parts replacement mechanics in our destination cities.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the challenges that an effort like this takes on the ground. Countries outside the United States are not friendly toward general aviation. It’s not uncommon to fly into an international airport that has no other GA aircraft. The handlers and ground control team see smaller aircraft as a distraction. Support facilities often charge the same fees to small aircraft as they do for commercial Boeing 737s. If you saw the invoices I get, you’d see fees including $200 for a full-sized bus to move you 100 feet from your taxied stop to the terminal, $50 for chocks (a wedge or block placed against a wheel or rounded object, to prevent it from moving) that I didn’t need, or a $300 airway fee.

At the Ushuaia, Argentina, airport, I waited three hours to make it through customs, get my bags to the airplane, and file a flight plan. When I complained, I was told they were “too busy” to deal with me. I was handed a bill for $2,800 and told if I didn’t pay with cash I could not leave. Previously, I had been quoted $600 for two locations and the handler said the difference was “extra fees.” When I reminded them that we were a not-for-profit organization on a world peace mission, there was no financial consideration and I was once again told my aircraft would be held until I paid.

To sum it up, no vacation or expedition is without challenges. Fortunately, with time we forget about many of the obstacles and focus on what brings us back to the joy that has always been inside of us. At our core each of us is an explorer working on our own personal journey. And while some of that journey may appear to be a vacation to those watching through the window or on their computer screen, to others it is purposeful work lived with a joyful heart. From the moment we take our first step we are always trying to expand our horizons. Psychologists define childhood play as serious business for growth and development. I think that’s true throughout our lives. We seek connection with others and our planet. We seek to nurture our humanity in all that we do. Whether you call that a vacation, an expedition, or work, I’m all in. I hope you are too.

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 preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Antarctica or bust!

The recent tragic disappearance of a Chilean (U.S. built) Lockheed C–130 with 38 souls onboard as it flew approximately 600 nautical miles over the water from Chile’s southern tip of Punta Arenas to Antarctica’s northern tip of King George Island, has me concerned, to say the least. My departure date to the South Pole—the southernmost tip of Antarctica and the Earth, from Ushuaia, Argentina—which is also the southernmost tip of South America, is less than three weeks out. This passage is the longest, hardest, and most terrifying leg of my polar circumnavigation and now, with this Chilean incident, it’s even more frightening.

If a military aircraft with four turboprop engines and two experienced Antarctic pilots in a type of aircraft with millions of combined miles worldwide can go down on a short 600-mile flight, then what is the outlook for me flying solo more than 4,200 nautical miles for 18 hours in an airplane manufactured in 1983 with just two turboprop engines and a pilot with zero Antarctic flying experience?

Needless to say, this compelled me to share some of the things that are flying through my mind during these remaining days and long, dark hours of the night before I embark on the biggest risk and greatest fear of my life, so far.

Mechanics

Mechanically the Citizen of the World is working well—very well, actually. Engines, five-bladed props, environmental and ferry fuel systems are all A-OK. We had some hiccups with each of these systems after their installation which required fine-tuning to achieve maximum performance. In the end, the manufacturers stood behind me, which inspired  me to dive deeper into their operations, limits, and maintenance resulting in a safer trip and greater confidence in my equipment, which will matter most when I’m sitting on Runway 07 in Ushuaia, tires bulging over max gross with the two Honeywell TPE 331-10T Predator Drone engines growling at 100 percent torque, pulling Citizen of the World toward her destiny as I release the brakes.

I’ve found once Citizen rockets into the air, this airplane just goes, and goes, and goes—higher and faster as it burns off fuel. The 2,300 horsepower produced by the powerplants are in a word awesome! Getting to altitude is slow, but when I test flew Citizen at 80 percent of ferry fuel, she climbed to 30,000 feet in just 46 minutes. That was the moment I knew Citizen would be able to leave the ground heavier than ever before, with 10 tanks of fuel.

Avionics

With respect to avionics, I’ve got everything I need through flight management systems—fuel computers, touch screens, synthetic vision, battery backup, infrared, radar, active traffic, terrain avoidance, satellite communications, music, weather, ADS-B In and Out. Today, we restored the satellite signal going to the No. 1 Avidyne flight management system, which is very similar to your average GPS unit (but more capable) and is coupled to two other systems including the L3Harris NGT 900 which provides ADS-B Out, and the EX 600 with position information and supports terrain, traffic, and weather displays.

I flew the aircraft across the Andes Mountains this week to Santiago, Chile, sidestepping off the route one more time to have Abiatronic Ltd., an authorized Avidyne repair center owned and operated by Ricardo Medina, save the day. I now have a fully functional panel for my South Pole flight.

Range

My Shadin Fuel Flow computer shows Citizen appears to be getting about 4.8 nautical miles per gallon range at altitude with 60 percent torque. If I slow the airplane down a bit with just 50 percent torque, it maintains altitude with the lower induced drag, and its efficiency increases to 5.3 nautical miles per gallon, which gives me a tremendous margin of safety. To confirm my calculations I had Robert Morgan, former senior research-and-development engineer at Scaled Composites review my test data. Using a lower fuel load than I will carry, he came up with an estimate that I will have a 27-percent extra margin of fuel.

Peace of mind/sleep

Insomnia has plagued me for the two years preceding this flight. I believe it is due to the enormous stress a polar circumnavigation creates in one’s life. The fear comes from doing something in a class of airplane that has never been done before. I’ve added new systems including engines, props, environmental system, and avionics to a 36-year-old aircraft and I’m asking it to give me three times the range that it was designed for. I’m banking on performance that can’t be confirmed until the airplane is fully outfitted. I made promises to over 90 sponsors that believe in me and Citizen. And, surprisingly I have slept through the night twice in the last week, which tells me things are on track and the planets are aligning. This is what it means to be in alignment!

Physical health

Physical preparations have definitely been a consideration on this trip. I had health issues that popped up during the two years preceding the trip that had to be dealt with so I could remain focused and present in the cockpit. Issues included a painful tennis elbow (I don’t play tennis), ingrown toenails, a dislocated shoulder, a vitamin allergy, and a cracked tooth that required emergency surgery and a titanium implant just prior to my departure. Getting my body into alignment with this mission has taken effort as well, but I felt good and healthy just before I set out on this flight. I believe that our bodies manifest some of our personal issues and clearing these things out was absolutely crucial so that I could maintain focus during the times that it is absolutely necessary.

The Gods

Since the beginning of planning this epic trip, we hit every barrier that we could—and hard. It was as if the Universe kept telling us “No, not yet.” I felt like I achieved a 7th degree black belt in being told “No,” while getting the cosmic two-by-four smacked across my forehead. The Flying Thru Life Team persisted when others said it was hopeless. We overcame obstacles of routing, equipment failure, physical injury, loss of funding, and supporters who were not really supporters. I learned to deal with rejection better, which helped me clarify my vision and draw in rock-solid people who believe in our mission and in me. We built a foundation stronger than I thought possible and we continue to rise above anything that has potentially stood in our way. Having the intention of “Flying Thru Life with Grace and Ease” is no longer just a tagline and affirmation; it’s become a moment-to-moment prayer of gratitude.

Intuition

Unlike the circumnavigation along the equator in 2015 in an airplane I named Spirit of San Diego, I’ve had many people whose wisdom and experience I respect come forward and tell me that they had a very good feeling about this trip. These Earth angels’ intuition, premonitions, prayers, and feelings have led them to trust that this trip is going to be a safe and successful one for me, which instills strength and confidence in me, especially when my mind starts to wander into turbulent emotional territory.

What you have read above may still not, in your mind (and sometimes my own) make this trip safe or risk-free, but it does include some of the conversations that have been in my head for the past two years and raging in my thoughts for the past two days. Some of you may find it more closely resembles the ramblings of a madman intent on taking chances. In my mind, the outcome of this trip has already been contractually determined with other souls long before I came into this world and now it is just a matter of allowing it to happen as it was intended. I will continue to try and anticipate every possible problem or outcome, be as diligent and detailed as possible while keeping in mind that every challenge is a learning opportunity—a “Zen Moment” that further prepares me for the positive impact I hope to have on humanity, and that humanity will have on me.

Join us on the adventure at www.PoleToPoleFlight.com.

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 preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

The power of courage: Finding and using It

“Courage is being scared to death … and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

With my departure from the continental United States on a six-month odyssey looming less than a week away, I am being pulled away from all my creature comforts including friends, family, home, car, and beautiful San Diego, while we explore the most remote parts of the planet. The National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of State are referring to Citizen of the World’s  global journey as a “Polar Expedition.” I’m reminded of a thought I had while in pitch darkness flying over the middle of Pacific back in 2015. I was heading toward American Samoa, an island that that was fogged in and surrounded by mountains, and I anticipated landing at their nontowered airport. I had just closed my eyes, and then I turned my head left toward the pilot window. When I opened my eyes  it was just as dark as with my eyes closed. At that moment, I realized I was very much alone in the middle of the Pacific with no support. That little voice in my head said “What are you doing? You could be at home in San Diego on your comfortable sofa watching TV with your girlfriend!”

The fact that I’m doing another circumnavigation with an even greater land mass and riskier weather has occasionally had me asking myself the same question when I wake up at 3 a.m. in a cold sweat.

And I’m not the only one questioning why I’m doing this.

When some people learn that I’ll be flying an extensively modified 35-year-old Turbine Commander 900 aircraft named Citizen of the World—with dozens of upgrades including six extra fuel tanks and more plumbing than your house—a few too many people refer to my plane as a “Frankenstein” (which, by the way, is a very nasty way to refer to such a fine, fine lady).

Humor aside, this joking doesn’t add to my level of comfort despite the fact that I have had the very best people working on the airplane with hundreds of combined years of experience. They have made mistakes along the way—and so have I. So far, since we’re all still here, we’ve obviously safely recovered from the mistakes, but there’s always an element of fear of the unknown and what might happen next riding shotgun in my mind.

So, then, where do we find the courage to do things that are challenging … (and honestly scare the p*ss out of us) as we navigate the ever-present fear on our individual journeys?

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” – Albert Schweitzer

I think courage comes from many sources. One is from the people who believe in us—the ones who support us with their time, resources, words, and faith. Because of their belief in us, we tell ourselves, “If they believe in me, I can believe in myself as well.” They see our abilities from a different and higher perspective.

For example, I was at the National Business Aviation Association convention a few weeks ago talking to the underwriter from Great American Insurance Group, which has agreed to insure my trip. I told the underwriter that I had chosen to add hull damage coverage to my policy even though most pilots on these kinds of long trips don’t carry it because of the high cost. When I explained that we had postponed three times to mitigate additional risk uncovered by more thorough preparation, I could see in the agent’s face that we had another believer. In my mind, our preparations were 100 percent complete when our 20,000-hour airline pilot and board member told me we were prepared and had done what we could—given the nature of the flight.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” – Steve Jobs

Another source of courage is from our own intuition and that of others. On my first trip around the planet East to West I had people tell me it wouldn’t go well. One person wrote on Facebook, “The Pacific is littered with planes just like yours.” My ex-girlfriend told me about dreams she had that I died a terrible death alone in the Pacific. My father said, “You are just going to get yourself killed.”

That was a hard trip, especially when my only engine failed at 14,000 feet over the ocean and 19 miles from the closest airport. As other frightening challenges arose, I felt like I was running out of my nine lives and had literally pounded way too much on death’s door. (See my book, Zen Pilot: Flight of Passion and the Journey Within for details.)

In preparation for this trip I’ve had so many very intuitive people I respect tell me it will be a safe trip and much easier in many ways, that all the problems I’ve had to date happened in advance of the trip so I could have a safe trip outside the U.S. When I pray—and I pray a lot—what I get back is that I will be safe, and things will go well. While I can’t know the future for certain, I can set the stage and choose to focus on the encouragement of people whose guidance I trust while doing everything I can to mindfully manage the negative thoughts and challenging situations that arise.

Courage also comes from experience. In my book, Zen Pilot, I talked about fear being my constant companion and co-pilot for some 26,000 nautical miles. Recalling that I had been tested to my limits and I was able to hold my course despite adversity, frustration, overwhelming fear, and financial challenges that would break most people reminds me I can do it again. And if I can do it, that courage can remind all of us in the most difficult of times that we have the resources to handle whatever the Universe throws our way. This is also known as “Faith”—faith in ourselves, faith in our equipment and yes, I will say it because it takes courage—faith in God.

On a spiritual level, I believe that courage comes from within—deep within us—maybe even from our souls. On the other side of the fear, which takes courage to pass though, is the greatest freedom we will ever feel. Getting to that freedom starts with these three courageous actions: 1) soul searching, 2) allowing ourselves to be broken down to our most fundamental selves, and 3) that critical component of persistence.

The use of persistence to activate courage is sometimes the most difficult of all qualities to muster up and to sustain. When I am all alone and there is no one there to help me at the moment when I need it most, it’s hard not to think I’m being tested. I feel exposed and vulnerable and I perceive myself as unprotected. What keeps me going, the reason I persist and can find my courage and act on it, is that I believe we are all here fulfilling a greater plan that has been laid down for us well in advance of our physical birth. We are simply fulfilling the contracts we have agreed to for this life.

And finally, embracing a mission greater than yourself inspires confidence, courage, and action. When the voices of self-doubt are screaming at me, when I feel like God is not hearing me, when I lose my focus, forget everything I have just shared with you, when I have lost my faith in God and myself, I reach into my pocket and touch my courage coin for a reminder of why I am doing this: One Planet, One People, One Plane: Peace for Humanity.

“You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.” – Chuck Yeager

Robert DeLaurentis will be flying from the South Pole to the North Pole in his aircraft Citizen of the World, and is scheduled to depart on November 23, 2019 (Pole Gods willing), from Gillespie Field in San Diego. He will be taking 200 courage coins that he plans to distribute along the way and upon his return to inspire future generations to achieve their impossibly big dreams through the power of courageous action.

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 preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Six things I’m most excited to share during the polar circumnavigation

There are several things that I’m most excited to share with my friends and fellow pilots as almost two years of complicated preparations come to a conclusion before the Citizen of the World embarks on a record-setting polar expedition over the South and North Poles. First and foremost:

Antarctica. The highest and most mysterious of all the continents, Antarctica is known to have the worst weather on the planet. Add to this, Antarctica offers some of the most challenging navigation on Earth, where the meridians converge and everywhere is north from there! One of the least traveled places on the planet, Antarctica has exotic places I have never heard of before like Elephant Island, Hercules Dome, Ronne Ice Shelf, and the Weddell Sea. This anticipated wonder has even piqued the interest of Smithsonian Magazine editors who asked for photographs of what I see. Because of the heavy fuel load it’s unlikely I’ll be at Citizen’s maximum cruising altitude of 35,000 feet on the outbound leg so everything I see will be up close, raw, and very personal.

Performance. We performed more than 50 modifications to Citizen over the past three years. The airplane was one of the early Gulfstream models with a longer 52-foot wingspan, higher pressurization, and a longer and deeper cabin. Later, the Twin Commander was upgraded with high-altitude Dash 10 engines, five-bladed nickel-tipped scimitar props, and reduced vertical separation minima (RVSM) so Citizen can fly higher and faster at 35,000 feet. We added ceramic coating over the paint for speed, we installed a Peter Schiff Environmental System to reduce weight, for better fuel heating capacity, and to provide non-contaminated bleed-air for pressurization and more speed at altitude (since the system uses less bleed air). To extend Citizen’s range we added three fuel tanks—for a total of seven—to extend the range out to 20 hours of flight time and 5,000-plus nautical miles. Other modifications include Whelen LEDs, higher ply tires with inner tubes from Desser, and an Avidyne/L3 panel with MaxViz Infrared that would beat any kid’s home computer simulator—hands down! For the complete list of modifications, please see more details on our Flying Thru Life website.

Self-confidence. The personal growth that comes from flying solo to remote parts of this beautiful, mystical, and wondrous planet in a highly modified airplane is terrifying but rewarding as well. Taking yourself and your aircraft to their limits is something that a pilot/person never forgets and is loaded with moments that teach us what I refer to as “Zen Moments.”  Executing on a mission like this builds a fierce survival instinct, confidence, and a can-do attitude despite all odds. Knowing you are supported by those who believe and trust you unconditionally allows you expand your horizons and push the limits of what you thought was possible in yourself and the world around you.

Civilization. The Citizen of the World will stop in over 26 countries on this polar circumnavigation, giving me the opportunity to meet new and interesting people in exotic places like Tunisia, Madagascar, Dakar, Patagonia, and Antarctica. The differences among people will fade and the similarities will become more prevalent as it becomes more and more obvious that we are all one. We are all are made from the same cosmic stuff and we want the same things—like safety and security for our families, health, financial security, joy, and unity.

Impact on the world. Our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity” has the potential to change mindsets for the better and is already having tremendous impact on the world. Articles, interviews, and partnerships have been documented globally in over 20 magazines, newspapers, and internet sites. The flight will be tracked in real time globally by over 12 million followers on FlightAware.com using Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out). Our videos are scheduled to be seen by over 20 million people on various TV networks including NBC, ABC, CBS, Dish, Apple TV, Sling, and 36 others starting in November.

Life-changing. The trip will be transformative and packed with lessons that only come from pushing one’s limits, taking calculated risks, dreaming impossibly big and then overcoming all resistance and making it happen (or going with the flow and letting it happen). I recall when I first spotted San Diego after my first trip around the world along the equator back in 2015—it felt like my first step toward what I was put on the planet to do. While I pray for ease and grace, I often find that struggle is what I must overcome. Never have I struggled so hard with professional relationships, timelines, patience, equipment, and technical issues. I find comfort and deeper connection because these challenges also seem to be what helps others see how hard someone is willing to work to make the world and themselves better—and hopefully it will motivate them to do the same with their own lives.

Ultimately, we find that our journeys are best shared with others. We go out into the world, overcome obstacles, persist when our goals seem so far away, learn what we can, and then come back and share what we have discovered. It’s my hope that some of these Zen Moments will help inspire you to stretch and grow beyond your comfort zone and not only go for your impossibly big dreams, but keep going when you want to give up because what you believe in is so much bigger and brighter and life-affirming than what you’re afraid of or struggling with. My prayer is that in the end humankind realizes we all breathe the same air and are, in fact, all connected as one —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 preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Why should the ‘Citizen of the World’ polar circumnavigation matter to you?

Our Flying Thru Life company and community mission of “One Planet One People One Plane” is for the benefit of every person on the planet, including you. Our primary goal is to show a divided world that we are all connected. Just as our flight will connect the two places on the planet where peace actually exists—the South Pole and the North Pole—our vision and intention are to connect all people in between through a shared adventure that includes deeper peace and Oneness.

One of our Flying Thru Life core beliefs is that humans are already united in so many ways that we often forget about in our busy, fragmented lives. One of our commitments is to be a living example of all these connections as “citizens of the world” and explore new ways to expand and deepen these relationships. Here are a few examples of the ways we are already connected:

Technology

With the proliferation of new technology our vast world is fast becoming one large community regardless of the desire of some to maintain separation. Things like the internet, where we exchange emails across the planet almost instantly; our global economy, where products from different countries line our shelves; or the planetary communication system with 66 Iridium NEXT satellites that now encircles our planet and is a key component of the Citizen of the World polar circumnavigation flight.

Transportation

People are now moving between states and countries with less expense, greater ease, and increased dedication to reducing carbon emissions. Airline travel between countries has become more efficient and available to the masses. Inexpensive airfares can get you from the U.S. to almost any other point on the planet. Movement through the European Union no longer requires a passport. While there may be nationalistic political efforts to keep people from entering certain countries, there is an equal effort on the part of global citizens to keep travel open between borders.

The Environment

The issues that affect “our” world are now global, including greenhouse gases, pollution, disease, and nuclear proliferation. It is clear that the resolution of these issues will require a collective effort and that no single player or country can do it all alone. We must all come together as members of planet Earth in our vision for the future of our planet and for our role as humans and stewards of the earth and all of its living beings.

Civilization

As the interracial connections between humans become more common with global communities, we will ultimately see the evolution of people into one race. This global citizen will be a blending of all races. Like it or not, agree with it or not, we will ultimately start to look more and more alike, reflecting the common spirit of humanity that already exists within each of us.

Origin

While there are some who question how our planet and the cosmos began, science continues to discover facts that explain how the universe originated from the Big Bang Theory. You and I and every other human being are made from the exact same cosmic stuff. “Those people” on the other side of the planet are just as much your brothers and sisters as the people in your family—just ask anyone who has discovered unknown relatives of different races through DNA testing and ancestry sites.

After visiting 120 countries prior to my 2015 circumnavigation, and another 23 countries and territories during the flight, it became clear to me that there are more similarities than differences among people. Before I set out on this journey, I defined people by their color, race, political affiliation, and socioeconomic class. But this limited perspective ignored the uniting spiritual element that is at our core and connects us all—things like our desire for health, happiness, the safety of ourselves and our families, our desire to dream and explore this beautiful planet, our home.

This polar circumnavigation of Citizen of the World has been created to highlight all the above elements and qualities, desires, and dreams; it is the common thread that joins humanity together. We are dedicated to connecting the South Pole to the North Pole and everyone in between as “citizens of the world” on a mission of One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity. We invite you to join us at www.PoleToPoleFlight.com and share the journey in whatever way you feel compelled.

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 preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

A lesson in “Diversity” for every pilot

Diversity: Understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences

With 7.71 billion people on our planet it’s hard to imagine we are all unique, especially when you consider that everything in the universe came from one unimaginably small singularity—the Big Bang. Even so, most of us look, sound, and act differently than anyone else.

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipped aircraft are similarly unique, as each has an individual identification code derived from the aircraft’s registration number. This code is transmitted by each aircraft’s ADS-B device, along with position, altitude, speed, direction, and other data. This information is received, processed, and retransmitted by dedicated ground stations, allowing others to recognize and follow us wherever we go. The Citizen of the World will be tracked globally during her polar circumnavigation using ADS-B.

Neil Aviation, San Diego

Matt Desch, the CEO of Iridium, explained that in order for the Citizen of the World to be tracked at all times during her world peace mission connecting the South Pole to the North Pole and everywhere in between, she will need “diversity.” Diversity is implemented by installing a second ADS-B transponder antenna on the top of the airplane in addition to the antenna installed on the bottom. This will allow her to be tracked over the oceans (and any other location where there are no ground stations) by the constellation of 66 Iridium NEXT low earth orbit satellites that came online earlier this year.

Allow me to nerd out for a brief second. Real-time flight data is sent from the ADS-B transponders to the Iridium NEXT satellites, and through a partnership with Aireon the data is sent to ground stations for use by air traffic control and other entities. This data is also used by our friends at FlightAware.com, a website where you type in an aircraft’s registration number and can track its altitude, speed and location. Iridium NEXT has made possible a “100 percent” global air traffic surveillance system that will increase safety, enhance efficiency, improve predictability, expand capacity, and lower costs. These benefits will, in turn, result in a significant reduction of carbon in the atmosphere—the equivalent of removing 300,000 cars a year from the roads. This is a true win-win situation.

To showcase this capability, the Citizen of the World will be the first aircraft to be tracked globally using ADS-B during a polar circumnavigation.

Now do I have your attention?

While this seems simple enough in concept, in practice it is not. Although very few transponders are currently capable of diversity, the Lynx NGT-9000 from L3 is. It’s a very compact, yet robust system that provides ADS-B Out functionality along with ADS-B In traffic and weather. It has a bright, high resolution touchscreen and also offers terrain avoidance and active traffic. The NGT-9000 is packaged as either a transponder-sized panel mounted instrument or a remotely mounted box. Amazing!

Canada will soon require that all aircraft operating in specified airspace have ADS-B Out with diversity. This will enable them to use Iridium NEXT for air traffic control without the expense and complexity of ground radar installations and the associated infrastructure. You can see the writing on the wall. It’s just a matter of time until every country on the planet requires this.

Adding diversity capability to the Citizen of the World will not be straightforward because the antenna installation must pass through the pressure vessel, requiring extensive documentation by an FAA Designated Engineering Representative. These documents will be then be submitted to the local FAA Flight Standards District Office for approval.

Acquiring the ADS-B diversity equipment and designing and documenting the installation are relatively easy. The hardest part these days is finding an avionics shop that has time for an installation. Most shops are already booked to the end of the year with aircraft trying to meet the January 1, 2020 FAA mandate for ADS-B Out.

Neil Aviation in San Diego installed the panel on my former airplane, the Spirit of San Diego, as well as the Avidyne panel on the Citizen of the World. The owner, Garrett Neal, has stepped up once again to help me with diversity. Garrett saw the importance of our mission of One Planet, One People, One Plane, and realizes that the Citizen will have very high visibility as it undertakes its unique journey. He went out of his way to make time for this project. For that, I am incredibly grateful.

Is there a downside to ADS-B In/Out besides the initial time, cost, and frustration to install? There is speculation that the data collected might one day lead to changes in how the airspace system operates but we’ll need to wait awhile and see.

With respect to being unique, there are certainly advantages and disadvantages for both airplanes and for people. Only time will tell if the benefits outweigh the costs.

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 preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Build an aviation support dream team you can’t live without

One of the many blessings of preparing for this polar circumnavigation is the aviation support team I have the privilege of working with. These people have made my flying safer, more enjoyable, and more abundant. Building this team hasn’t been easy and has created many moments of frustration and soul searching that have left me scratching my head and then needing to course-correct more often than I care to remember. But, with persistence and a relentless focus on our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness & Humanity” and the strengths needed to realize this impossibly big dream, these challenges and relationships have taught me many things, made me stronger, clearer, and I hope a little more “Zen” in the process.

I would like to share 11 “Zen Lessons” I have learned and introduce you to my team and their strengths so that you can build your own aviation support team with greater ease, grace, and enjoyment. Knowing you have a solid, caring foundation of earth angels will allow you to be your absolute best in the air and on the ground.

First and foremost, find people who share your passion for aviation 100 percent and focus your energies on them. In a time when we can have 5,000-plus Facebook “friends,” I’m here to tell you just the opposite of what you might expect—to do the impossible you only need a handful of true supporters you trust to get started and keep going. Imagine a small circle of people gathered around you with their arms outstretched, hands on your shoulders, championing you and your ideas without exception. The energy of that circle transforms into an upward spiral of momentum and at times, cheesy as it may sound, becomes the wind beneath your wings.

Accept only 100 percent integrity from your team and yourself every time you interact with them. You want people who will lift you up and not dilute your energy. Mindfulness coach and author Mary Marcdante is one of these people for me. She is my sounding board, a mentor, wise editor, and kind friend to me. She is the person who asks me questions like, “Are you in 100 percent integrity with your values and your word? Are you living up to your branding of being a “Zen Pilot?” Is this how you want the world to remember you?” She asks me the hard questions, inspires creative solutions, and keeps me pointed toward my True North.

Surround yourself with people who are willing to make time for you. Some will share they are too busy and don’t have the bandwidth. Don’t take it personally. Let them pursue what they are passionate about and use your energies on attracting people who share your life passion of flying. Mike Jesch is one of these people for me. Mike is a master CFI, airline pilot, kind soul, speaker, and so much more. He has always been supportive of me, makes time for me, and helps me find answers. We are currently trying to establish the amount of time and fuel needed to climb to altitude in Citizen of the World when the aircraft is fully loaded with fuel 935 extra gallons of JetA1. This information is currently unpublished and unknown but critical to the success of my pole-to-pole mission.

Find people who will speak on your behalf and hold you in their thoughts. Anne Anderson is one of these people for me. An international GA pilot, Ninety-Nines chapter president, business owner, and supportive friend, Anne has reached out to media outlets, potential sponsors, and aviation organizations for me. She sends me information that I need to see and would otherwise miss in support of my trip. Anne has on occasion reminded me that I need to do a little more of that “Zen” stuff I’ve been talking about when things get tough. Anne’s delivery is always gentle, which allows me to hear what I need to hear and shift my energy quickly.

Find people with real world experience who are concerned about your safety and go beyond acceptable to extraordinary. Tim Kneeland and Jennifer Gamon of CAPS Aviation are my safety angels with huge hearts. Jennifer recently offered a free day of survival training to the entire Ninety-Nines organization of 5,000 female pilots throughout 44 countries. I attended the first of many of their survival training courses and instantly fell in love with both of them. I thought I had such a kick-ass survival kit—even AOPA articles have been written on it. They pretty much threw the entire kit out and started over, building me a custom survival kit for the 26 countries I will fly to that leaves me awestruck. The kit includes organized spread sheets with expiration dates; the latest technology; and all of it with a consideration for weight, energy conservation, safety, and rapid response.

Have a few dreamers on your team that will help you expand your life and flying experience. Ron Hulnick does this for me. Ron is a pilot and psychologist who has been teaching Spiritual Psychology for over 35 years. He has dedicated his life to making this world a better place. When I started planning my first circumnavigation along the equator in 2014, I went to him and told him of my interest in supporting a cause. He said, “How about World Peace?” I laughed when he said it, and he chuckled as well. I later came to realize he was serious. At the time I wasn’t ready to take on a project that “impossibly big.” Several years later, the support and inspiration I felt my from team gave me the courage to take this huge bite out of life and dream up our “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity” mission.

Have people on your team who are wise enough, strong enough, and loving enough to stand up for you and to you; tell you when you are wrong; and then help you get back on track. Susan Gilbert is this person for me. Susan is the person who told me “No” five times in one meeting on a topic I couldn’t let go of. She also first inspired me to fly and keeps me and my aircraft soaring. She is my chief tactician, mentor, and, really, the brains behind much of what we do. She is an expert in social media, publishing, and life. Susan is the first person I thought of and called after my single-engine Piper Malibu, “the Spirit of San Diego,” failed 14,000 feet over the Strait of Malacca and not knowing if I would live or die, I dead sticked 19.6 nautical miles over the dense jungle of Malaysia into a busy international airport. She truly is the wind beneath my wings and the ground beneath my feet.

Have people who are smarter than you. Astrophysicist Brian Keating, Ph.D., is my top science advisor, has been nominated for the Nobel Prize, and has microwave telescopes at the South Pole and on mountaintops in Chile and Bishop, California. He is the one who understands the movement of the magnetic poles, optimum times for crossing the poles, and has connected me to the NASA experts who designed a legacy experiment for Citizen to carry that will also ride on a NASA mission in 2059! Brian is one of my best friends; he’s an inspiring, generous friend and has a cosmic perspective that helps me to see bigger and dream impossibly big.

Have people who support you with global connections and resources and whose loyalty and love of aviation is greater than their love of the paycheck they receive. Meet Eddie Gould. Eddie loves aviation more than almost anyone I know and truly cares about my wellbeing. He is the guy who stayed up all night watching my flight over the Indian Ocean and almost lost his mind when I arrived two hours late because I had incorrectly transferred avgas to the wrong ferry tank and needed to slow down to conserve fuel. He bent over backward to get me oil, fuel, lodging, a haircut, and data chips for my airplane on the dark side of the planet on my first circumnavigation in 2015. He has proven his loyalty 10 times over.

Be your own best teammate to yourself. You and your team must be strong enough to change and evolve with the times. This means letting go of who and what doesn’t work to make room for new people and new experiences. It’s OK if some people are with you for a short time. Not everyone is intended to be with us forever. The saying, “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime,” applies here. Having a loving, evolving support network in alignment with you and your vision and values will help you reduce your stress and sleep better knowing that the weight of your mission is shared and doesn’t just rest on your shoulders.

Remember to give back to your most cherished team. Go to your personal limits in loving them back as well as supporting them on their personal journeys. After all, the best teams feel valued and respected (love in action), and the best journeys are shared.

For detailed bios on individual team members, go to http://flyingthrulife.com/pole-to-pole/the-team/

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 preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Big Head, Big Helmet: Make Mine an XXL

True story: I was trying on the Lift Aviation extra-large AV-1 KOR Aviation Helmet for my polar flight after the large size wouldn’t fit.

Me:  This thing feels tight around my forehead and on the sides. I’m thinking, I must have a really large head.

Sales Guy:  I’m sorry; we don’t make a bigger helmet.

Me:  Really? Are you sure?

Sales Guy:  I’m quite sure. 

Have you ever felt super confident, maybe even gotten a little cocky, when you set out on a flight or in my case, a longer journey for the second time? You’re already visualizing the end result and giving yourself an “Atta Boy!” At the very least, you expect the adventure to be easier because this time you are, of course, a lot smarter, having developed a higher level of expertise and proficiency. You’ve made great contacts that have turned into strong working relationships and sponsors. You have organized a support dream team like no other. You have previous successes to fly on, and definitely better equipment (a freaking Gulf Stream Turbine Commander 900 with two predator drone engines and huge 5-bladed custom props!) only to discover the Universe had other plans for you?

When I decided to do a second circumnavigation of the planet, I wanted to do it much bigger and better.  My hope was the Flying Thru Life team would reach outside of aviation (which in the grand scheme of life is a very small group) and use the “Citizen of the World” as a billboard for a bigger global purpose.  The plane would be the vehicle for a message of Oneness: “One Planet, One People, One Plane.”

After taking on this lofty goal, I decided I would use the concept of “ease and grace” to make all this happen. Ease and grace in my world means the planets will align, the seas will part and I’m going to wrap it all up at the end without breaking a sweat on my brow, no problem. To an outsider this might even appear to be easy. But wait…

The Universe was about to serve me up a big piece of humble pie, which can be hard for an aviator to swallow…

My preparations for a second circumnavigation—this time a polar circumnavigation, which means crossing the North and South poles—have been defined by anything BUT ease and grace.  I was expecting it would take me about six months to prepare based on my first circumnavigation along the equator.  Right now, we are 20 months in from starting and still dealing with several mechanical issues:  repairs to the fuel controllers, environmental upgrades and fine tuning of the avionics, all of which were certified refurbished or brand spanking new. This time the Universe has given us an entirely new set of challenges and lessons that have at times left me and my team scratching our heads saying, “What the heck!? We thought we were almost there!”

Here are some of the things we have learned the second time around:

Don’t let the time drive you.  This is all on God’s time.

Quite simply, sometimes the timing is just not right. Other things needed to unfold. A good example of this was while I was attending a presentation at the Aero Club of Southern California after the planned departure date. I was sitting at a table and had the good luck to meet a man who is a philanthropist and does aerial photoshoots for NASA, Boeing, SpaceX and the U.S. Airforce and many others. This meeting ultimately led to confirming a documentary about the trip with aerial footage over Southern California, Switzerland, Alaska and on the outbound leg from Chile to the South Pole. The footage will be shot in 8k (a huge leap above the 4k you find in the theaters today) and has the potential to tell an epic story that will resonate in aviation history for years to come.

Let the Trip Decide the Direction

During a conversation with Brian Terwilliger, the producer of 16 Right and Living in the Age of Airplanes, he gave me some advice as I explained the direction I wanted to take the documentary.  He said, “You don’t need to stress about this. You should let the trip decide the direction the documentary will take. Since you likely won’t be going back, get as much footage as you can, and then decide what this film will be about.” This really resonated with me because I’ve felt the mission has been guided from the start and things have been revealed to me each day. Besides, I could spend months playing the “What if” game and not come up with an answer. Clearly, it’s been better to stay open to what the Universe has in store for us.

The Second Trip Promised a Richer, Much Deeper Experience

Have you ever seen a movie the second time around and realized how much you missed?  It was as if the first time was just a warm up and you had a much deeper connection the second time around. You found more meaning in the messages and noticed details that enriched your awareness and appreciation for life. This trip is exactly that. And, in addition to staying alive (literally), my hope is this “Citizen of the World: Oneness for Humanity” circumnavigation will be the common thread that connects the North Pole to the South Pole and everyone in between. We couldn’t come up with a more ambitious goal. As I said in my first book, Flying Thru Life, choose an impossibly big dream! We sure did, and it is impacting us in so many ways. On a metaphysical level, if you delve deeper into the concept of Oneness, you will realize this is also a world peace mission because when you see the world as “One” there is no separation between humans.

Let Go of the Element of Time

We have pushed the departure date back twice and soon possibly a third time. While installing the avionics the shop really needed a few more days of trouble shooting. I made a painful decision to pull the plane out of the avionics shop to attend an AOPA Fly-In held in Santa Fe, and then fly it to Tennessee, where it was scheduled to stay for four weeks for the environmental install. The transponder had a bad connection and led to other issues involving the testing of the environmental system. When the environmental shop needed more time and eight weeks had passed, I made another difficult decision to pull the plane out of the environmental shop to make another deadline for the 150 hour engine inspection. As a result of all these delays, as you have probably already guessed, I will be taking the plane back to both locations, which I could have avoided if I wasn’t trying to make deadlines based unrealistic expectations. Time must be respected and the best work happens when people have the time to focus and work together for a better and safer outcome.

We are Human and We are Going to Make Mistakes

In my book, if we were perfect, we wouldn’t need to be here going to Earth School. That said, I still like to strive for the impossible goal of perfection, but it causes a lot of self-imposed stress and, let’s face it, we are human and there is no avoiding that we’re going to make mistakes and occasionally miscalculate—that’s part of the deal when you dream up impossibly big dream—and it’s still so easy to forget. We may think that with experience the initial problems we had will never happen again because we solved them and learned from them—and then it happens again—and we’re brought to our knees. It makes me think God must be a baker because he keeps sending down free second helpings of humble pie. The good news is that aviation history has proven that there are worse things than a second helping of humble pie and that is making the mistake of taking off when you are not prepared and ending up with bigger problems down the road.

The bottom line is that we never stop learning and life never stops throwing us lesson to help us move forward.  You will get lessons presented no matter if you are trying to jam your big head into an aviation helmet, holding people to their schedules or working on your paper for your literature class.  It’s life and we are going to learn an entirely new set of skills on our quest to evolve.

While I can hope and pray for ease and grace, my friends remind me, “How much fun would it be and what would we learn if everything went just as it was planned? It’s the trials and tribulations that we overcome on the Hero’s Journey and the wise and compassionate understanding of human struggle and suffering that inspires us onward to realize our impossibly big dreams.

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 preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Finding your ‘true north’

Location of the North Magnetic Pole and the North Geomagnetic pole in 2017, shown on a map together with the geographic north pole. Pole positions are from IGRF-12, as shown on http://wdc.kugi.kyoto-u.ac.jp/poles/polesexp.html.

As pilots we know there are magnetic forces that act upon the planet as well as our airplanes—magnetic variation (or declination) and deviation. Magnetic deviation is the effect our individual airplanes have on our compasses. Magnetic variation is the difference between magnetic north (compass needle north in response to the earth’s magnetic field) and true north (the difference from a location to the north geographic pole). The Magnetic variation of the planet is changing slowly and moves approximately one kilometer per year.

During my navigation preparations for my Polar Circumnavigation in my aircraft, Citizen of the World, I have come to realize that finding true north is not as easy as I thought. Most GPS units get confused over the poles and fail at critical moments. Luckily for pilots, the Avidyne IFD 550/440 with synthetic vision is available and uses a different coordinate system than other units, which eliminates the problem. With Avidyne’s system I’m only required to push a few buttons to find my way to true north.

I see aviation as a metaphor for life so this brings up a new set of questions for me: What things affect my personal navigation? What factors affect my personal and moral compass? What path should I take? Where am I headed?

To find answers to heady questions like these, which are best pondered by philosophers and/or pilots with too much time on their hands, I often walk in Balboa Park, a place that is rich with aviation history dating back to the days when renowned aviator Charles Lindbergh walked there. Every day my walk in the park is different and reveals new ideas and insights to me; it’s the one place I go to when I need answers. Rather than trying to “figure things out,” I put my energy into opening my mind and heart to what I need to know on my life journey. Most recently the message I received was, “Spread your wings and follow your true north, not magnetic north.”

This was an interesting synchronicity as I had just changed my upcoming start direction from South to North after some mechanical issues forced me to miss my 30-day window at the South Pole. Rather than wait another year and head south first, I decided I would prepare for another six months and start the trip going north.

Heading to my true north has given me many personal and trip advantages.

  1. Starting with familiar territory (The North Pole) will help me increase my confidence in my aircraft and improve my skills as I head to the very challenging South Pole. For a list of these challenges, see my earlier post, “Antarctica—The biggest risk of all.”
  2. Heading north first will allow me to work the bugs out of the aircraft in the new configuration and have three possible Twin Commander authorized service centers outside the United States instead of one, if necessary, prior to the most challenging South Pole leg.
  3. My team and I will be able to build a number of successful trip events like lectures and interviews along the way, so if for some unexpected reason the South Pole becomes illusive we will have some success to show for our efforts rather than starting with a loss that will follow us through to the end.
  4. Delaying the trip will allow me to work on attracting additional sponsors to cover expenses. We have over 80 in-kind sponsors at this point, but it is still not enough to pull off a polar expedition of this magnitude. (New sponsors welcome!)
  5. The additional six months will allow all 66 Iridium Next Satellites to come online, which Aireon will use to provide the first global air traffic surveillance system using a satellite-based, space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast.  This will allow my flight to be tracked anywhere in the world with a little help from www.FlightAware.com.
  6. While we have waited to launch, I have been approached by Wolfe Air, an aerial photography company to do a documentary in 8k (digital cinema quality) with aerial photo shoots over Alaska, the Matterhorn in Switzerland, and Chile, on my way to the South Pole and some local work over Southern California. They will install two cameras inside the airplane as well. Wolfe Air’s impressive list of clients includes SpaceX, NASA, Boeing, and the U.S. Air Force.
  7. The extra time has allowed me get to know Erik Lindbergh, gain his support, and confirm a ride-along with him on the final leg back into Lindbergh Field, now San Diego International Airport.
  8. I’ve connected with new partners including The Explorers Club and The Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans that will broaden our positive impact on the environment.
  9. The extra six months will allow me to resolve some minor medical issues and get in even better shape. The delay has allowed me to be present for people close to me going through health issues, which would have been impossible to do and would have been a major mental and emotional distraction for me on the trip.
  10. And maybe most important, I realize this trip is not on my time but God’s time and to be grateful for every moment of time I’m given.

As it turns out, following my inner compass to my true north has been the best way for me to draw attention to and have impact on the general aviation community, promote STEM, further science using a NASA experiment, showcase aviation safety and technology, set speed and distance records over the poles, connect the North Pole to the South Pole and everyone in between as Citizens of the World, to promote the Zen Pilot brand and the DeLaurentis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) that will fund aviation scholarships for kids following the trip.

So my questions to you are: Are you following your inner compass? Where is your path leading you? Are you open to receive the considerable guidance that is always being sent your way that will bring you into alignment with your personal true north? My wish for you is always a wholehearted, “Yes.”

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 preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.

Is flying worth dying for?

Boeing 737MAX-8 photo courtesy of Boeing Co.

With the recent loss of two new Boeing 737 Max aircraft, the loss of one of my instructors in an airplane he flew for years, and the recent destruction of the Spirit of San Diego, an airplane I flew around the world in 2015, I’m becoming less comfortable with air travel whether I’m flying the airplane or in the passenger seat.

It’s never easy to accept the loss of life or an aircraft. When I hear about crashes due to an inexperienced pilot or poor aircraft maintenance, as heartbreaking as it is, I understand why it likely happened, but all the incidents I mentioned above involved very experienced pilots flying well-maintained aircraft.

So, how then, do we regain our confidence in the air given this rash of aviation incidents? Or do we? I’m not sure this is a situation where we can reason our way back to a point of comfort. So then, perhaps we explore it in an entirely different way.

Perhaps it’s time to deal with the bigger issue of our mortality and accept some of the risk that life involves.  What if we were to examine our mission in the world and then assess what level of risk we are willing to accept to achieve our dreams and goals?  Most pilots, including myself, really don’t like to talk about mortality and the risk of flying; even the thought of it makes us feel uneasy, which is all the more reason to open the conversation and talk about this reality directly here and now. None of us is guaranteed how long we have on the planet. There is so much out of our control, and few of us are sure of how much the role of fate plays in our lives.

As I consider my upcoming pole-to-pole circumnavigation and reflect on my first circumnavigation when I flew around the world, taking off and landing in 26 countries in a single-engine airplane, quite honestly I think about my potential mortality quite a bit. Looking out into the total darkness of the Pacific Ocean late at night with thousands of miles of water around me was a constant reminder that I was taking a calculated risk. If that wasn’t enough, I was very much aware of a father and son who attempted an equatorial circumnavigation in a single-engine airplane in similar circumstances a year before me and didn’t make it.

I want to share some of the things that gave me peace of mind and kept me safe on my journey as I experienced six inflight emergencies that made me, at times, doubt my decisions, my abilities as a pilot, and my trust in myself to recover.

Prior to the trip, I had a few signs that I struggled to interpret. Each could have been viewed as a “bad” omen by some. I resisted the urge to see them as bad or good and felt instead the universe was tipping me off that I still had some work to do.

One of these signs was at the exact moment that I decided to do my first circumnavigation. I turned on the TV and the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks was playing. If you are not familiar with the story line, after an airplane he was in crashed, he was stranded on an island in the Pacific, talking to a volleyball he names Wilson, and eating lots of coconuts. After watching the film and tossing and turning all night, I decided I needed to get serious about my survival skills. I took classes, assembled a rock-solid survival bag, visualized and practiced getting out of my airplane long before it would submerge, which I had heard would take about a minute, and even less time if the airplane was on fire. Echoing in the background more often than I care to acknowledge were the words my father shared with me frequently before my departure, “You are just going to get yourself killed,” which I learned to meet with a Zen attitude by focusing on positive thoughts and actions that would keep me relaxed and help me respond with greater ease and grace.

Next, I decided to go a little deeper and explore my beliefs about my soul and multiple lives. I read many books on the subject and spoke to thought leaders and experts in the field. Out of all this research, I came to believe my soul was eternal, that I would actually live hundreds maybe thousands of lives, and it didn’t matter if this one was long or short because there would be another life coming along a short time later (cosmic time) so no reason to lose sleep over it. In fact, I’d probably come back a better pilot, (possibly more humble?) with a much cooler airplane. Keeping a sense of humor while being serious about my safety helped keep me grounded too. It was also about this time I was watching Star Trek and heard the young Spock talking about the old Spock when he said, “Fear is irrational when you have lived as many lives as him.” Bones then chimes in and says, “Fear is what keeps us alive!”  If you’re a Star Trek fan like I am, you know Spock was a Vulcan, which made him logical and unable to lie, except in that one episode. Knowing Spock was a movie character, I felt only slightly better, but life and death and reincarnation were starting to make sense to me and I was still excited about doing the trip.

Another significant moment is when I recalled some words that I heard a graduate level spiritual psychology classmate once say, “If it’s not worth dying for then why even do it?” In other words, what’s the risk/reward ratio?  During my flight around the world with hundreds of thousands of people pulling for me, I felt that what I was doing was very important. People were telling me they were inspired by the trip, that they were overcoming their personal challenges and that it was important for the world to see someone going after their impossibly big dreams.  In the process my aircraft, Spirit of San Diego, became a vehicle for my global message of oneness and brought considerable positive attention to general aviation. The journey allowed me to fulfill my lifelong dream of using aviation to teach us about life. It was also a way for me to share the concepts I had learned in my spiritual psychology studies to help others manifest the resources of time and money to pursue their dreams like I was able to do.

Another perspective to consider: Have you heard people say that everything happens for a reason in your life?  Maybe you have experienced this yourself?  A series of events happens for no apparent reason and then you come to realize those events needed to happen first so that something else could manifest.  Or perhaps you needed to learn something to understand the importance of some future event.  It’s quite possible the path you are on that doesn’t always make sense will ultimately help you fulfill your noble purpose in life and benefit millions in some way. I’ve learned that judging the importance of an event in the moment is only part of the story, so why put yourself through the stress?

No one has been given any guarantees about their time on the planet. Life is a temporary visit to the earth school for each of us. Reminding ourselves of this point helps us to value each moment that we are living and allows us to celebrate life. Perhaps if we focus more on living in the moment and not in the past or future we could appreciate the value of the time we are experiencing now and accept the things that we have little control over that will happen regardless of what we do. Surrendering to what is in front of us is sometimes our only option and perhaps, for those of you who believe there is more to the life you are living, the greatest demonstration of our faith and the reason we get back in an airplane and choose to fly through life with the greatest of ease.

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 preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.
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