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Reinventing yourself: Finding and buying a floatplane

Emboldened by my recent Single Engine Seaplane (SES) rating and move the Pacific Northwest, it was time to set out on a search for a very special airplane. But which one? There are so many different types of seaplanes, should I go with a classic or something newer? Floats or a flying boat? Honestly, I had no idea, so my first thought was to throw caution into the wind (pun intended) and just log onto one of the online airplane-buying magazine sites. I knew of three which included Barnstormers, Trade-A-Plane and Controller. Surely, I would be able to find something that worked for me!  I found the process to be exciting!

While there were many possible configurations, there were not many airplanes for sale and the prices were very high. My first thought was that this was going to be harder than I imagined and maybe it would be like my experience moving up to the Pacific Northwest. Prices had skyrocketed in the last year and it appeared people were trying to unload their junkers to any city slicker who was willing to pay the ridiculous prices.

Defining my mission

As with most major decisions, I seek out the people with the most knowledge I can find. I went back to my friend Addison Pemberton, the master renovator and owner of the Grumman Goose that had whetted my appetite for my seaplane rating just a couple months before.

Addison was pretty clear that the name of the game was to make the aircraft as light as possible so it could get off the water in a short distance and expect to get it wet.  I also needed reliability since I was planning on flying a lot in Alaska and Canada. I needed an autopilot because I wasn’t going to hand-fly on the long legs. I also needed some rock solid IFR navigation capabilities for the bad weather that I knew I would experience further north.

I knew that flying low and slow would be a major adjustment after flying the Citizen of the World in the flight levels at over 300 knots true around the world and over the North and South poles. While it was fun above 18,000 feet at reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) altitudes, I was missing a lot below me. It might feel like I wasn’t moving, but I would have more time to take in the sights and change my perspective.

Getting advice from the big boys

AOPA President Mark Baker suggested I reach out if I ever had a floatplane question and he directed me to Minnesota’s Wipaire Inc. to see what inventory they had in stock. They had a newer Cessna 206 on their floats but the engine was past TBO and I wasn’t looking for a project.

Next, I asked my FAA SES examiner, Glenn Smith, who was very knowledgeable as well. He suggested a shop in Park Rapids, Minnesota, called Park Rapids Aviation. I went to their website, and they had only one plane but it was a beauty. It had all the mods I was looking for, but it was old by my standards! It was a 1977 but the airplane was beautiful. The listed price was $495,000 for a Cessna 182 on Aerocet 3400 amphibious floats. One of my friends talked me out of buying such an old and expensive model.

I even had a conversation with aviation legends Burt and Dick Rutan about their experimental SkiGull floatplane project. While the SkiGull hadn’t lived up to Burt’s expectations with respect to handling big waves, they learned a lot. It was probably the only experimental I would have considered based on the brothers’ long history of excellence. Unfortunately, the aircraft wasn’t going to be produced so it wasn’t an option either.

Since I was planning on flying up in Alaska, I also reached out to a couple of Alaskan pilots to discuss options. I figured the people flying in the area would know what worked best up there. A guy named James Spikes, who lived in Wasilla, Alaska, and had won eight short takeoff and landing (STOL) competitions including the famous one at Valdez, let me know the earlier 182 on floats that I considered was a beauty and could be used on tundra tires as well. Marc McKenna, a collector and pilot from Anchorage, with several hangars full of pristine Cessna 180s and 185s, also gave me the thumbs up on that same 182 and told me to “Buy it!”

Buyer Beware

In the process of the search, I came across an option that looked pretty good, but the owner was playing a bit dumb with me. Sensing something was up, I called in the most knowledgeable floatplane mechanic I could find who was Rob Ritchie from Kenmore Aviation in Washington. To give you an idea of Rob’s credentials, when I walked into Kenmore Aviation I asked a guy if he had ever heard Rob Ritchie and he laughed and said, “You could ask that question from here to Australia and get the same answer! Yes!”

The plane I was interested in was just 45 minutes away from Kenmore so I met Rob at the aircraft and he sliced and diced that plane during the pre-buy like he was using a sharp kitchen knife. We determined the airplane had a history up in Canada and 6 years of logbooks were missing. Of course, the owner said he was unaware of the missing books. If it was not for all Rob taught me about floatplanes during that 5 hours, I would have been pretty upset. That lesson cost about $1,500.

Beaver fever

Rob started showing me some of the most pristine de Havilland Beavers I had ever seen. I was a bit intimidated by their size and felt they would be a handful to dock or beach for a first-timer. The price tag in the 700K range was pricey for someone trying to build hours and determine if floatplane flying was even what I wanted to do. The insurance company made it easy by giving me an emphatic, “No!” to doing transition training in a Beaver. In my heart of hearts, I know a DHC3 Beaver will play some part in my life in the future, just not now.

The Universe steps in and gives me some guidance

Over the span of the next couple of months, I learned the state of the market, what floatplanes were selling for, and what my next step would be. As luck would have it, I was walking around 2021 EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh  and my eyes fell upon one of the most beautiful floatplanes I had ever seen and it looked very familiar. It was N257JS—the Cessna 182 on Aerocet floats that I had seen online on the Park Rapids website months before, and she was perfect! In fact, I was blown away by this aircraft. Turns out she had only 1,749 hours on her and I couldn’t find a rusty bolt, a bit of corrosion, or for that matter, anything wrong with her. I knocked on the trailer door behind the plane and out walked a new friend of mine who I respect and admire, Tom Hamilton. He is the most humble person, the founder of GLASAIR, designer of the Kodiak and president of Aerocet Floats. Tom is an aviation legend, and I was surprised to see him. We had several great conversations over the next few days about N257JS, floatplanes, aviation, and life. This was a super cool coincidence, and the Universe was pointing me directly towards this beauty and the quality floats that he designs and builds.

The perfect time to buy

With inflation running wild and all the new administration printing currency as fast as they could, now was the perfect time to use the cash I had and invest in hard assets. As inflation increases so would the value of my airplane! I knew I would not lose money if I sold in a couple years after building some hours as a seaplane pilot.

Pre-buy

I made an offer on N257JS and it was quickly accepted. The pre-buy was with Will at North Point Aviation and went well. Aside from some tight control cables, instruments that needed calibration, a little bit of corrosion on the prop tips, and a bad vacuum pump, it was clean. All the supplemental type certificates were in order and the seller was willing to fix the squawks.

Modding Her Up

Now it was time to decide what she needed from me! N257JS was already loaded with extra features including a Continental IO-550 that was ported and polished, a Hartzell 86-inch three bladed prop, bubble side windows, glass panel, vortex generators, STOL wing, wing extensions, tip tanks, and gap seals to name a few. For my mission, I would need a few more things, which my generous sponsors agreed to provide, including Whelen LED lights, a Concorde battery, and Electroair electronic ignition. I’m waiting on answers from MT on a reversing prop, L3 Harris Technologies for a Lynx NGT-9000 ADS-B transponder and an ESI-500 electronic standby instrument, and Genesys Aerosystems S-TEC 3100 digital autopilot.

Welcome to the DeLaurentis Foundation family!

Escrow closed a week after the pre-buy and I’m happy to say N257JS is now a proud member of the DeLaurentis Foundation. Her (still unnamed) mission is to help me safely build SES, hours to satisfy insurance requirements, preform reliably, turn some heads, and teach me about seaplane flying across Canada, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest. I’m unsure what role she will play in our future missions, but we know she will be involved in something bigger in the near future that will have impact on aviation and the world.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed 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.

Reinventing yourself and your flying experience! Part 1 of 3

Addison Pemberton’s Grumman G21A Goose N95467 that took 8000 hours to renovate to perfection

There comes a time in every pilot’s life and flying career when you have flown to all the local airports within range of one tank of fuel, tried all the $100 hamburgers in your area ($1,000 if you are flying a turbine) and had all the adventures that call to you. It’s at this point, when you must address what your restless soul has been saying to you probably for years.  It’s time to answer the call, pull chocks and find another home and adventure. Perhaps it’s another coast, somewhere warmer, an area with a different type of topography like mountains or islands, or somewhere with seasons. This new place will be your steppingstone to potentially far greater adventures and an even better version of yourself!

Answering the call

With Covid, many of us realized we could live anywhere since we were working virtually. We learned how little we really needed to be happy, and that life was short. Clearly if ever, now is the time to bust a move on the adventures that are waiting for us. It is a chance to reinvent ourselves! For me, my new life and vision included flying low and slow rather than at the flight levels. I had always wanted to fly and explore our beautiful planet with a floatplane. It was finally time to see the parts of this beautiful world that had passed below me at up to 400 mph.

Finding your new home

For me, I looked in California, Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Idaho, and finally Washington State. The Islands on the Puget Sound near the San Juans in Washington turned out to be the magical place that felt like home and offered me so much of what I was looking for. Washington would become a steppingstone to the beauty and adventure of neighboring Idaho, Canada and most importantly Alaska!

Since I had the “Where” figured out, it was time to start focusing on the “How?” Questions that needed to be answered including: Where would I house my aircraft?  Would it be hangared? And who was available to work on it? I wasn’t just making decisions for me, I needed to know my current airplane the Citizen of the World and my future floatplane would be well taken care of.

The first thing I did was to post on the group FATPNW-Flights Above the Pacific Northwest on Facebook. I said I was moving to Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island and asked for some guidance on hangars and airports. What a welcome reception I got! I asked first about hangar space within 45 minutes and people started sharing their ideas, tips, and experiences. When it became clear that things were impacted and waiting for space would take more than two years, I started looking for other options.

Keith Love the airport manager of Skagit Regional Airport reached out on FATPNW with some opportunities to build a hangar and shared the name of three contractors with experience and good reputations. Right now, I’m looking at available lots and determining if I can afford to build.

Making friends

Aviation friend and seaplane pilot from Spokane Jeff Hatcher

I quickly found people in the Pacific Northwest are very friendly. I was surprised to have people just talk to me like we were friends from the beginning. In this land of floatplanes, warbirds, and smaller GA aircraft few people had seen an international lady as beautiful and capable as the Citizen of the World. After the Art Craft Paint, Inc. museum quality paint job with ceramic coating honestly the Citizen was hard to miss. People were very curious and wanted to know more and always welcomed me to the community. I hoped to soon be doing events at the Boeing Museum and the Heritage Flight Museum at Skagit to get the word out even more.

Finding an aviation mentor

Debriefing after my first seaplane lesson with Addison Pemberton

In Spokane, just a short flight across the Cascades, my seaplane pilot friend Jeff Hatcher introduced me to a guy that I instantly liked-named Addison Pemberton. Addison is a super positive, upbeat, and generous guy that had been restoring airplanes with the help of his wife and sons for the last 30 years. He has a couple of hangars full of really cool planes including a Grumman Goose that was aviation “perfection” and the topic of an AOPA article that you will definitely want to read.  Addison offered to take me up when I told him I was looking forward to learning how to fly a floatplane. Needless to say, I was all ears around the melodic sound of the two radials. There is of course the visual experience of flying around Lake Coer D’ Alene, which is in a word stunning, but then there is the sound of these two radial engines growling away. And if that is not enough to get you hooked, then jumping in the lake for a swim is about the best thing ever.

Your next “step”

Just like a seaplane gets up on “the step” as it starts to accelerate prior to liftoff so did I with my learning. Addison and the others that I met did an excellent job of whetting my (No pun intended) for my future adventures on the water. This new perspective down low put me back into a learning mode like when I first started to fly just over ten years ago. Pretty much everything these people said to me was an opportunity to learn and grow as a pilot and as a person. Learning and adventure definitely go hand in hand and Addison suggested Coeur d’Alene Seaplanes for the next step in the progression to becoming a single-engine seaplane pilot (S.E.S).

Reinventing yourself and your flying experience is something every pilot should do at least once in their life. Leaving the past and those things that anchor you to it can be liberating. Starting anew is a wonderful opportunity to be the person you want to be now. Plus, as we grow and evolve, we seek different places, adventures and experiences. For me, finding more quiet, nature, personal exploration, and connection with like-minded people and aviators is what feels right for the next chapter of my flying life and becoming the best new version of myself.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed 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.

Heading to Oshkosh? Considerations before you yell ‘Clear prop’

Mooney Girl ready for Oshkosh

As the country re-opens to aviation events, it is natural for us to want to jump back in the airplane and zoom off for the fun.  However, I would like to you consider the numerous factors that now come into play because of the pandemic and resultant effects on our flying.

Flight operations were decreased in 2020 and early 21 due to COVID-19.  Painting with a broad stroke, operations not only include us as a PIC but Mechanics, FBOs, Flight Instructors, ATC and Charitable Flights.

For a moment consider all the things we need to possess or exhibit to be a safe, proficient, pilot; currency, muscle memory, recency of flight, logical methodical thought, competent with our avionics. Now imagine for 12-18 months you were not able to utilize those skill sets.  The degradation of cognitive processes and physical muscle memory are real dangers when we don’t fly often.

Before you launch for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, or a local, state or regional event objectively look back at your flight activities in 2020 to date.  Many of us took advantage of virtual aviation events during this time, but were not in an actual airplane.  It is a great idea to consider the airplane, pilot and environment while still on terra firma.

Airplane Considerations

Airplane:

  • Airplane might have hidden mechanical issues due to lack of use [hoses, battery, fuel/brake lines, belts].
  • Look for fouled pulleys in control cables, cracked tire sidewalls, mice dining on your wiring, mouse nests in the fuselage and wings.
  • Check for water and gunk in the fuel lines, bird nests in the engine compartment, cracked ignition wires, bearings frozen in gyros.
  • Mechanic might have been off for an extended time.
  • FBOs might have newer staff fueling your airplane

Pilot Factors: Time to pull out your mental, physical and emotional checklist and do an inventory.  Are you ready to fly across the state, region or country for an aviation event?


Environment:

In addition to weather and airport/runway conditions, please take the additional factor of destination activity.  Let’s take EAA AirVenture Oshkosh [OSH] as an example of the environmental factors that need to be considered. For over a decade I have flown halfway across the country to Oshkosh, WI in a Mooney.   I have come in to OSH using the FISK arrival and twice in the mass formation Mooney arrival.  As well I have landed in Juneau, Madison and Appleton, WI when coming for the week.  All arrivals have varying levels of risk, safety and excitement.  If you have not flown much in the past 18 months it would be best to choose the safest, least exciting way to get to the show.

My personal experience with the FISK and the mass formation arrival is that I have always had another pilot in my right seat.  It is nice to have two sets of eyes looking for traffic, landmarks and the like.  Even having flown 120 hours since the pandemic, I don’t think I would fly single pilot landing at OSH this year.

Mass Arrivals: Do consider a formation clinic or individual instruction in your region in 2021.  Most clinics welcome all brands of aircraft.  The skills you will learn will serve you well and formation flying has a strangely addictive quality.  The fun, fellowship, and flying are hard to beat.  Plus, you might get a super cool call sign to memorialize your participation.

Bonanzas to Oshkosh Their website https://www.b2osh.org/Web/B2OSH/default.asp

Bonanza Mass Arrival OSH

Mooney Caravan : Vita nimis brevis est tarde volo  [Life is too short to fly slowly.]

Their website : https://www.mooneycaravan.com/Web/Mooney/default.asp

Mooney Caravan Yuma Gunfighters Clinic

“Friends don’t let friends fly the Fisk arrival”

… overheard in the North 40

Cessnas to Oshkosh Their website:  http://www.cessnas2oshkosh.com/1410home.aspx

Cessnas to Oshkosh en route

Cherokees to Oshkosh  Their website:  https://www.cherokees2osh.com/

In summary, do what I have done. Consider yourself, airplane and environment before launching. If you are headed to #OSH21 please do look for me there.  I will be at the AVEMCO booth on Tuesday July 27th from 11-12 for Women Moving the Needle. On Thursday July 29th at 1:00 p.m. I will present Into the Alligator’s Mouth: Psychology of Personal Minimums for AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Institute.  Door prizes for this safety seminar have been provided by: Lightspeed Aviation, LIFT Aviation, King Schools, Flying Eyes Optics and Pilot Safety.org

 

 

Jolie Lucas makes her home on the Central Coast of CA with her mini-Golden, Mooney. Jolie is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and commercial pilot. Jolie is a nationally-known aviation presenter and aviation writer. Jolie is the Region 4 Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Email: [email protected] Web: www.JolieLucas.com Twitter: Mooney4Me

Recognizing your favorite mechanic … what makes a mechanic GREAT?

The look of stress just prior to a test flight and inflight emergency.

In the past few years, the Citizen of the World has been honored by having many skilled and experienced mechanics work on her. She visited many shops and repair facilities across the United States and received over 50 upgrades and modifications. I like to believe that each mechanic made her a little bit better. These aviation maintenance technicians helped the best version of the Citizen come to life and shine on a global scale. For the Citizen of the World, that “shine” included inspiring many, setting world records and carrying experiments for NASA, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and one supporting biofuel use globally. And now her mission is one of promoting STEM education.

If I was to pick the best of the best of all those mechanics, it would be Rob Louviaux of Commander Maintenance Consulting (CMC). Without him, the Polar Circumnavigation would have never happened. As I reflect back, I have come to realize how much he did for me, the Citizen, and the Pole-to-Pole Flight. It is remarkable how selflessly he gave of his time and expertise. He was our lead mechanic and honestly the most knowledgeable person I know in the industry when it comes to the Twin Jetprop Commander 900.

Why should this matter to you? Because Rob from CMC set the gold standard that I think all mechanics should strive for. In an age when mechanics are taught to replace components until they get it right, this guy knows his stuff cold and saved our project many thousands of dollars. Finding a guy like this as a private pilot will make your flying so much safer and enjoyable. Here are seven qualities you should look for in a master mechanic:

Consistency

While Rob pulled off some amazing stuff in the two years we spent prepping the Citizen of the World the thing I appreciated most was that he was consistent from start to finish. was always fully in and engaged, whether I was standing directly in front of him, right after a major aircraft failure, or calling him from the other side of the planet. He was solid and I never doubted his level of commitment. He loves aviation, the Commander community, and being a part of something bigger than all of us. Rob always made me feel like l was a priority.

With you when the times get tough

One of the things I most respect about Rob was his willingness to test fly the plane with me when it had completed major work. Most mechanics won’t. He put his life at risk, as I did. The first time this happened was after the overhauled engines were installed. Rob was sitting next to me at altitude when we performed NTS shutdowns on each of the engines — one at a time — and attempted to restart them. The copilot side engine started perfectly but the pilot side engine would not unfeather. Rob went to work doing everything a master mechanic could inflight. When it was clear a component had failed, I saw him close his eyes for a brief moment, take a deep breath and then go to a place of peace as I landed the Citizen on one engine. I think we were both afraid as our legs were shaking when we got out of the airplane.

Staying cool

The second incident happened at altitude when both power levers froze up at 34,500 feet and the cabin simultaneously lost pressurization. As I was starting the emergency decent and declaring an inflight emergency while we both donned our oxygen masks, Rob was shutting down the environmental system, engaging the emergency pressurization, and trying to get the engines not to overspeed. Honestly, I don’t know if I could have handled all that myself. Losing engine control on two engines and pressurization simultaneously is a lot to handle no matter how good you think you are!

Speaking on your behalf

After that inflight emergency, I made one of the biggest mistakes of the project. I called the manufacturer of one of the failed components and told him he almost got Rob and I killed. The manufacturer hung up the phone and wouldn’t talk to me for three months. The project was stopped dead in its tracks. I would practice my superpower of eating crow for the next three months trying to get the manufacturer engaged again with no luck. However, Rob broke the stalemate with frequent calls to the manufacturer. He was able to negotiate a deal to get things going and get the Citizen on her way to the South and North Poles.

Making the extra effort

Early in the project things stalled when the shop that had agreed to remove the engines and send them out for overhaul stopped working on the airplane. It turned out the shop had never rigged turbine engines before and had mostly worked on piston Commanders. The engines sat in boxes for two months before we caught wind that the delays were never going to end. Rob saved the day by flying from Scottsdale, Arizona, out to Stockton, California, and working on them for four days straight in the intense heat. Rob got us to the point where we could get the airplane to CMC and finish the work.

Being available for all those questions we all have

Rob remained available night and day for the 24-month period leading up to departure and for the entire eight months and 23 days of the trip. Operating a 35+ year old aircraft is challenging and is going to have issues when you stretch its performance to the material limits. When I lost the generator portion of my starter-generator in a remote part of Sweden, Rob was flipping through repair manuals, sending me wiring diagrams and had me checking fuses until we diagnosed the problem and found a repair shop enroute to the North Pole.

Calling you on your BS/Giving sage advice

When our project was gridlocked after the second inflight emergency, and I was losing my “Zen” responding to sponsors who said they didn’t think I would ever do the flight, I considered a legal solution to my problems. Rob calmed me down and pointed out that wouldn’t accomplish anything except delaying the project even longer and rattling the sponsors off even more. Rob told me many of these systems were working in other aircraft and our best course of action was to get mine fixed. Again, Rob was right, and I took those systems all the way to the South and North Poles based on his recommendation.

I can’t help but look at all of the qualities that I shared about my top mechanic and acknowledge that these are the same qualities you’ll find in a great friend and mentor. Rob and I spent so much time working together, solving problems and discussing what was possible with this 35-year-old aircraft, that we became much closer. In the process of struggling to complete the mission, I learned a tremendous amount and got to know the aircraft better while my repair skills greatly improved. Rob also taught me how a true philanthropist acts and gives unconditionally on the journey. It is my sincere hope that each of you find a friend and a mechanic to help, guide, and teach you on your journey of flight and exploration.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed 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.

Silencing the naysayers

Flying in “cabin class comfort?”

Sometimes we are motivated as much by those people that say we can’t do something as by those that say we can! On my 2019-2020 Polar Circumnavigation the voices and comments of the naysayers were alive and well.

One of these comments came from a retired 747 captain who said, “If you are so ’Zen,’ maybe you should see the signs you are getting and not do the trip!”

Another comment came from one of my closest friends who was telling the sponsors that the polar expedition was really a “sponsor-financed vacation.”

Neither of these comments could really be further from the truth. This was never so obvious as when I was over the true, magnetic and North Pole of Inaccessibility and the 5 hours that followed, when my two flight management systems, two ADAHRS (attitude, heading and reference systems), autopilot, HF, and VHF comms went offline. With the Jet A fumes so strong in the cabin that I could taste the fuel in my throat as my eyes watered and sinuses burned, I remember thinking that my reality was much different than what people truly understood.

How then do we reframe these thoughts and comments so they don’t slow us down or block our efforts? Instead, no pun intended, they “fuel our efforts” so that we can take this all in-stride and as the saying goes “smile in the face of adversity?” Here are six ways that might help you deal with the naysayers.

Identify and isolate the naysayers

You will know who they are by their comments and actions. Your job is just to put them behind you. My social media team was instructed that I didn’t need to hear these comments and just to delete and block them. As a practice, we put them behind us as fast as the Citizen of the World could fly, which was about 311 knots true.

Use negative comments and thoughts as an opportunity to educate

Sometimes, despite your deft maneuvering, you won’t be able to dodge all of the negative comments and thoughts. When one of my biggest sponsors said I might as well just tear their logo off the Citizen of the World—since they didn’t think I was ever going to leave—I just hung up the phone. I wasn’t going to listen to that for even an instant. Maybe not the best move out of the sponsorship playbook, but one I was not going to entertain. In hindsight, I could have agreed to disagree and explained we had identified additional risks that we were taking steps to mitigate, and we wanted to ensure a safe and successful flight. And of course, during the delays they were getting additional exposure.

Overcoming a mountain of criticism is often about educating others. Some people simply don’t understand the magnitude of your efforts, passion or the challenges you are facing.

Reveal information on a need-to-know basis

Complicating my attempt to educate, my team intentionally held back information because we didn’t feel my family members and supporters could handle the extreme stress that I was experiencing. It was hard enough on them because their fears were coming up. We figured I would just endure the overwhelming stress and struggle of this journey with the help of my closest supporters. Comments I sent via satellite text to my greatest supporter and friend Susan Gilbert when I was critically low on Jet A fuel over the dreaded Drake Passage confiding I didn’t think I had enough fuel to make it—would have sent others into hysterics.

Focus on your supportersFor every person doubting me there were many more telling me that I could do it and my result would be overwhelmingly positive. Their comments were light filled and so positive that often they would bring me to tears. A note from Eddie Gould of General Aviation Support Egypt (GASE) kept me going:

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 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 :-).”

The truth will come out as you look closer

Things are not always as they appear. One follower texted me, “it must be nice to be flying in cabin class comfort!” In the picture above with my survival gear stacked outside the airplane you see me moments before departure doing my best to put on my game face when the reality was that I was facing absolutely terrible odds. My survival gear would go on the copilot seat and behind me leaving me little space to move around. The entire back of the Gulfstream Twin Commander 900 was filled with six additional venting fuel tanks. Before the flight concluded I would be losing navigation, dealing with snow blindness, mechanical issues, fatigue, fuel gelling, and wearing a stuffy and uncomfortable rubber emersion suit for 18.1 hours.

I had assessed my chances of survival at roughly 50%. That was not 50% that I would set out and come back possibly making the South Pole—that was a 50% chance that I’d still be alive in 20 hours.

Use these comments to identify risks you need to mitigate

Your naysayers will help you identify the risks you must overcome. They are expert at helping you identify in great detail the issues you must address. An example of this came when a fellow circumnavigator told me that he didn’t think the Citizen could fly 4,400 nautical miles unrefueled. He said I was foolish not to test the range of the Citizen until the actual flight. He was right, and my team set up a series of test flights that helped us verify the range of the plane which allowed me to take less fuel than I was capable of carrying. In a sense, you have an extra team working for free helping you to think through every detail of your journey.

Scarcity

Understand these naysayer comments come from a place of scarcity. The comments are less about what you are doing and more about what others have passed on in their lives. Don’t believe the stories of others they are not your own. It’s like Don Miguel Ruiz says, “If you are going to tell yourself a story make it a good one!”

Silencing

With the successful completion of the Polar Circumnavigations the naysayers would finally be silenced. They would have to move on to their next project! The ADS-B Out tracking from Aireon fueled by info from the 66 Iridium NEXT- satellites over the South Pole really said it all. If that was not enough, I had two nano GPS trackers, iPad screen shots, recorded conversations with the South Pole that will come out in the docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth and Beyond” and a latitude/longitude text msg sent almost directly over the South Pole.

Perseverance

The naysayers are just a part of your journey and intended to teach and protect you. With their continued help your success will be even sweeter. Yes, it will be hard and at times unbearable, but you will succeed. It will feel like you are about to be crushed like a bug but yet you must persist! It will feel like you are carrying the weight of the world but with the help of your supporters you can do it if you continue to put one foot in front of the other day after day. It may take longer than you think. My preparations were intended to take 6 months but took 18. My actual trip was intended to take 4 to 5 months but took 8 months and 23 days.

Smile in the face of adversity and you will find your success and much more!

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed 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.

‘Citizen of the World’s’ STEM education makeover!

About four months after the Citizen of the World returned to the United States from her record setting polar circumnavigation, she went in for new paint and interior at Art-Craft Paint, Inc. in Santa Maria, California. The Citizen had earned the major makeover after enduring some of the roughest treatment Mother Nature could throw her way during the flight over the Poles to 22 countries on six continents.

The goal was to prepare her for a new high visibility mission for the year ahead as a STEM Education platform. The Citizen of the World will be visiting various aviation events across the United States including the Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo, EAA AirVenture, the NBAA Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition, as well as various museum events. The Citizen will have a Redbird Flight Simulations Inc. flight simulator with her so aspiring pilots can hop in the seat and fly five high-stress flights that include the North and South Poles and a cyclone out of Madagascar.

To accomplish this lofty makeover goal, Teresa Arredondo from Art-Craft Paint, Inc. suggested we make the Citizen “look the part.” Being new to airplane makeovers, I spent a week at their facility observing, talking to the team, learning more about the process and my plane in the preparation and makeover. I would like to share what I learned about the difference between a good paint job versus a great paint job with those of you that feel it’s time to spoil your aircraft as well. Why not? With interest rates at an all time low of 1.2% it makes sense to bust a move and help spur the aviation economy!

Eliminate flammable materials

We were surprised, maybe even shocked, to find out parts of the interior of the Citizen of the World were done using highly flammable materials intended for use only in cars. In aviation, using these cheaper materials is forbidden because it turns the aircraft into a flying roman candle complete with large amounts of billowing deadly black smoke. Sadly, this huge detail was missed during the pre-buy, but needed some immediate attention. Technically, an airplane without the proper flame retardant materials is not airworthy. For me, this was a chilling fact considering I just flew my expedition with six extra fuel tanks—five of which were in the cabin just inches behind me.

Cover the seams with aluminum tape before stripping

Many companies skip this important step when painting your airplane. It will save you about 40 hours of labor but when the plane is stripped the chemicals make their way into the seams and start breaking down the sealant that you rely on to keep the airplane airtight. It takes about two years for this to become a major problem. The stripper acts like a cavity that just gets worse and worse and reduces the integrity of that seal. It actually does more damage to your aircraft than the extra hours of labor will do to your wallet.

Add survival stripes

Why not take this stellar opportunity to increase your chances for survival as a pilot in the air and on the ground? After a few conversations, Teresa she made a priceless suggestion. She proposed that we add two bright red survival stripes across the center section of the wing. Sounds like a small thing, but if you ever go down—whether it be over Antarctica or your local mountain range—you will be several times easier to find with your emergency signal built into the top of your wing!

Add a ceramic coating and get your shine on!

Ceramics are inexpensive way to use modern technology to literally take your plane that extra mile. In the process you extend the life of your paint job by five years for a fraction more expense. Additionally, you can reduce the number of times you need to wash your aircraft each year, save the planet, and make your baby look like a mirror! This is professionally applied and you can use it to see yourself in case you left your mirror at home. On my two circumnavigations I found this increased my speed by 1-2 knots and as a result the range was extended as well. A ceramic coating is a great way to save money in the long run.

Add a little sparkle

Want an inexpensive way to spruce up your paint job and make it stand out? How about adding some pearl luminescence to the paint? The cost is minimal and all of a sudden that boring baby blue looks like something special. You will surely turn a few heads on the ramp with this small, but significant upgrade.

Take the opportunity to replace hard to reach parts

There are only two times when the control surfaces are removed from your aircraft. First, during a proper paint job, and secondly during an accident investigation involving them. The bearings that are now magically exposed are inexpensive and they are critical components of flight. You might as well replace the bad ones while you have access.

Flaws Revealed

When we had the control surfaces off the Citizen of the World, the mechanic at Art-Craft Paint, Inc. noticed that the airplane’s rod ends did not match those in the parts manual. A few calls later we found that someone had installed the wrong ends. The Citizen was definitely giving up her secrets after all these years and asking for a little help so she could always perform at her very best over the most remote parts of the planet.

Balance the control surfaces

A fast or inexpensive paint job will skip this critical step and it can be dangerous. If you want a good flyer, then you have to take the time to first weigh the control surfaces when they come off, compare that information to what the factory recommend, and then check them again once they are painted. If you skip this step, you also run the risk of creating an unwanted resonance that you never had before. That smooth flying plane may not be so smooth if you skip this step.

Find a shop that takes a personal interest in your plane

In the process of working on the Citizen of the World the Art-Craft team started to get attached to this historic and special lady. As a final touch, everyone who worked on the aircraft signed the inside cover of the avionics bay which was then clear coated. Charles Lindbergh did this same thing with the Spirit of St. Louis.

As with everything in aviation, you have to be patient, crack your wallet, be methodical, and pay extreme attention to detail. You might as well do it right while you have the opportunity. You will regret it later if you don’t. Remember, your paint job represents who you are so you might as well present the best you can if you are going to make those new colors soar!

Please stop in and say “Hi” at Sun ’n Fun, NBAA, EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh, and some select AOPA Fly-Ins. Teresa and I will be there and we would love to hear your thoughts on our museum quality STEM education platform.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed 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.

Facing your critical breaking point

Photo credit – Explorers, Jeremy Là Zelle and Kristin Gates

You have completed your expedition, pushed yourself, your team and your equipment to their absolute and total limits, risked your life, satisfied your sponsors, supporters and followers, completed your scientific experiments, written the book and simulations, filmed the docuseries (so generations can experience the sheer terror and thrill of it all without the year of counseling), declared victory, and now you are trying to figure out, “What did I learn? What the hell does it all mean?”

The answers to these questions, of course, will take time and will fall into place like the pieces of a puzzle over the years that follow. These answers will be the most valuable things you take away from your expedition.

Here are a few pieces of the puzzle I have placed and can now share with you…

The pay dirt

Let me start by saying the personal expeditions we embark on while they are rich in science and adventure are even richer in the knowledge, wisdom, and insight that we acquire along the way. The true expedition is the one that goes on inside of us, not around us. The pay dirt comes from examining the inner depths of who we are as human beings. Our inner journey forces us to examine our beliefs and redefine who we are in the world and that brings us to our breaking point, and for some, multiple breaking points. These key moments break us open on multiple levels and change the way we see ourselves and the world around us.

Your new reality

At this critical breaking point, which is both physical and mental, there is a new reality that we don’t often have access to. It’s a time when the normal day-to-day rules we live our lives by don’t exist. Our senses are heightened, time slows, our focus is laser sharp, our adrenaline is at 100% and our existence is in jeopardy. At these valuable moments in time the doors open to a new reality and we experience something truly unique. This is often when our mission becomes bigger than us. We put our lives on the line to bring about the change we want to see in the world. We become living examples for the planet. We redefine our personal limits and how we see ourselves. We are in a way being prepared for more.

These extreme moments on my Pole-to-Pole expedition to 22 countries and 6 continents occurred:

  • During test flights when critical equipment failed at 34,500 feet while flying at 300 mph
  • Over the South Pole when the air temp dropped to -60c, which was below the freezing point of my aircraft’s jet fuel and the operating temperature of its Predator B drone engines
  • Over the deadly Drake Passage when I was critically low on fuel
  • In Dakar, Senegal when my #1 ferry tank burst inside the plane and sent Jet A1 fuel into my eyes, onto my arms, legs, chest and groin, severely burning me
  • Over the North Pole when I lostall communication, the attitude heading and reference system, the autopilot, GPS units for 5 hours

During these challenging moments the tendency is to lean back on your heels and retreat to safety but it is actually the time that you must lean into your fear and discomfort—to “be with” rather than turn away. You are approaching your moment of learning. I couldn’t help but wonder during these times, often with tears running down my face, “How hard are you going to make this? What are you preparing me for?”

Breaking you open

Expedition leaders are strong and think they can do it all. They keep loading up on responsibility and tasks (PR, social media, trip preps, team building, sponsorship, permits, etc.) until not even the strongest person could possibly carry even another ounce on their shoulders.  Everyone has a breaking point.

The answer I came to realize was that the Universe was breaking me open. Breaking down my defenses. Exposing that raw side of me that was not accessible when I had my armor on. In a spiritual sense, we are broken open to heal and deeply grow ourselves. This lets the light shine in on the parts that need it.

Why did the Universe keep doing this?

Because I had more to learn…my learning was far from complete and needed to be tested. I mistakenly stated after the longest and most difficult leg of the trip over the South Pole that the rest of the trip would be the “Global Victory Lap” for me and the team. The Universe obviously had other plans in store for us. The Sufi philosopher and poet Rumi had the right idea when he wrote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Redefining ourselves

During this equally confusing, frightening, and magical time of transformation, we are redefining how we see ourselves in the world.  We are watching ourselves do these things from outside of ourselves, from a new vantage point. We are learning what we are capable of, how strong we are mentally and physically, and the magnitude of what we are capable.

When I reflect back on the moments I described above, the person involved in all that risk and transformation seems foreign to me. I ask myself where did that superhuman drive come from? Who was that person? Why would he or she take on those incredible risks?  I honestly feel like that must be a different person or that I could never have done that. But that person is me and I did do it, and you can too, when you align your impossibly big dreams with the courageous person that lives within you waiting for you to say “Yes.” That person, in reality, is our new self with greater strength and wider boundaries. It is the new best expanded version of us that sees the world from a different perspective—the view from 35,000 feet.

Where the drive comes fFrom

For me, this drive comes from a source that is free to dream and think impossibly big. It resides somewhere deep inside all of us. Maybe from our restless soul that can’t settle for a “normal” existence? I like to believe we come into the world with a contract to fulfill. A contract that defines our life mission that is often noble, deeply personal.

Those who doubt would say it’s our ego wanting to be seen. I know there are easier and safer ways to get ego recognition. For me, it comes from wanting more for the world and being frustrated by those that don’t deliver on their promises for a better brighter world.

Busting a move

At some point we gather up our resources, supporters, sponsors and bust our very best move out into the world. In my first book, Flying Thru Life, I wrote about when our passion and purpose come into alignment, we “accelerate” our awareness and growth. I have felt this many times. It’s powerful, it’s clear and it feels right as we connect in oneness or as we said on my Polar Expedition, “One Planet. One People. One Plane.  Oneness for Humanity.”

For those of you who are reading this and thinking, “This guy is crazy, and all of this sounds like something I would never do,” let me ask you this: if your dream doesn’t scare you, even a little, is it big enough?

The answers you seek are somewhere beyond your level of comfort and the only way to find those answers is to step outside of your comfort zone. Choose to get curious about what your critical breaking points are trying to tell you and where they’re trying to take you. Ask the tough questions and be willing to fly with the discomfort of not knowing. When your answers arrive, you may be surprised to find an inner expedition that leads you to a new reality where the best version of you resides. Who wouldn’t want to land there? It’s the “Land of I Can,” as my mentor, friend, and pilot Susan Gilbert writes. Where courageous action and impossibly big dreams meet is the ever-evolving best version of you.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed 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 the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed 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 the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed 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 the books Flying Thru Life, Zen Pilot, the children’s book The Little Plane That Could, and the upcoming book Peace Pilot: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond. A complementary 12-part worldwide docuseries, “Peace Pilot to the Ends of the Earth,” will be simultaneously released. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and recently completed 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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