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Overcoming the fear and panic of the coronavirus

As the coronavirus makes its way around the world and people become afraid and begin panicking, I want to share some helpful techniques I have learned over the last several years as someone who has reluctantly but gratefully become an expert on the topics of fear and panic. My list of qualifications includes but is not limited to:

  • Aviation equatorial and polar circumnavigator who experienced engine failure over open water and jungle in Asia with fuel tanks bursting inside my plane and a loss of oxygen at 35,000 feet.
  • Military officer during the Persian Gulf War who had enemy aircraft take attack profiles on our ship while we dodged mines and navigated to avoid poisonous jellyfish and great white sharks at sea; and dodged land mines, oil well fires, and hordes of poisonous sea snakes.
  • Citizen living through riots in Indonesia, Katmandu and Chile and performing citizen arrests of gang members threatening to overtake my property.

Here are eight tips that will help you find inner peace during the turbulent times the world is now facing when you need it the most.

1)  Take longer, deeper breaths and slow yourself down 

From my experience, contrary to what you may think in the moment, the Universe only gives you what you can handle. It may feel like more that you have dealt with before but what is happening is actually for your learning and evolution. You will experience a few moments where things feel like they are totally out of control. This is normal and it will pass in time, and sooner rather than later. Press pause and ground yourself through slowing down your breath and pace. Count to 10 or say your favorite prayer or mantra. Recognize and acknowledge that you are in this space and it is temporary, mentally revisit your greater purpose and what matters to you, and then ask yourself what step to take next. Action, positive or negative, follows intention. Aim for positive.

2) Identify the real issues 

If you zoomed out from the situation and looked at it from 35,000 feet above, while letting go of the fear and panic, what advice would you give yourself (or a good friend if that is easier to imagine)? What more realistic questions could you ask yourself?

  • Is the perceived scarcity real or imagined, The human body can go without food for at least 30 days, as long as drinking water is available. In fact, organs don’t usually start breaking down until Day 40. It’s called fasting and many believe it is extremely beneficial to release the toxins in your body.
  • Did you know that some countries don’t even use toilet paper? Newspaper can work in a bind and may be more valuable than what the media is spreading (pun not intended, but if it made you smile, that’s called a stress break).
  • What are the immediate and real issues that you have to deal with?
  • What if you did absolutely nothing?

3) What resources can you draw upon?

Did you know that the number one contributing factor that keeps people alive in challenging situations is the will to survive?  People with loved ones, causes, or a strong desire to live survive much longer than those who mentally give up. Take an inventory of all the people who you love and who love you, and those who need you in the world. Humans have a fierce desire to survive. Don’t underestimate the force of your will. You are capable, strong and never in the history of the planet has there been a living being with a better combined skillset and capabilities to survive than a human being. You are awesome—own it.

4) How much do you really need? 

Chances are you really need much less than you have become accustomed to during the easy times. Think about it. In the short term, we need air, water, shelter, warmth, food, a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves—and not a lot more. The happiest people that I have seen in my travels on this Polar Circumnavigation to 20+ countries are people in the Tigre region of Ethiopia, and they don’t have cars, beds, medical care, cell phones, TVs or social media. They have each other and nature.

5) Park your ego at the door

Whatever the experience that is happening, chances are you will be eating some humble pie so accept it and let the resistance fall away. Maybe it’s time to call in a favor from a friend or family member, ask for help from others or wear those same socks for a few days. Maybe see what is happening as an opportunity to show how strong and courageous you are and how you can take things in stride. Offer to help others, too. Altruism relieves stress and increases well-being.

6) Don’t give up

When my fuel tank with 100 gallons of Jet A fuel burst inside my plane and sprayed oily fuel in my eyes, on my face, chest, arms and private parts, I splashed water in my eyes, pulled off my clothes, put on dry ones and kept fighting to save my airplane and my mission. Don’t give up no matter how bad things look. You are so much stronger than you will ever know. Trust yourself. Choose to believe this is all happening for a reason and let your intuition and the Universe guide you.

7) Put your situation into perspective

Currently the resources of the entire world, the medical community, every human and scientist, are working towards a solution for our common cause.  We are coming into alignment, steps are being taken, resources provided, and solutions being found. Despite the challenges, these difficult times, may just bring the world closer together into “Oneness.”

8) Find a way to recharge and regroup  

You are likely operating at a pace you cannot maintain for the duration of this challenge. Take time for yourself and replenishing your spirit. For me, I re-energize myself and regain my solitude by walking in nature, being in an absolutely quiet place or sleeping restfully. In the silence I’m open to what guidance the Universe has for me. By shutting out the distractions of life I can receive the messages that are meant for me to learn whatever lessons are intended for me to move past the challenges I’m facing.

Finally, what is happening in the world is not any type of cosmic punishment! Things like viruses or “dis-ease” have been happening for thousands of years. As long as people have been around and even before human life appeared, it has been part of the natural order of things here on what is often called “Earth School.” Much as we wish, our bodies are not immortal even though we may believe our souls are eternal. So, we need to get used to the fact that even with all the scientific advances that are being made each day, our time on the planet is still limited. Let’s slow down, take deeper breaths, and look for the good in whatever this amazing never-to-be-repeated today brings.

Robert DeLaurentis is an aviation Polar and Equatorial Circumnavigator with extensive survival training covering all types of environments including mountains, oceans, desert and polar extremes. He has flown himself to all continents on the planet and visited over 140 countries and territories. He is passionate about creating a sustainable planet and easing the suffering of others through his adventure publishing company Flying Thru Life and his non-profit foundation DeLaurentis Foundation, with missions to inspire people to live their impossibly big dreams through the wonder of aviation and 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.

The new me: Zen Moments flying over the South Pole

Change, welcome or unwelcome, is going on all the time. Our challenge and our opportunity is to be aware of that change and use it for the greatest good. After flying my 1983 Turbo Commander for 18 hours non-stop from Ushuaia, Argentina, to the South Pole and back over some of the most beautiful, but unforgiving terrain on the planet–not knowing how my airplane would perform with ten fuel tanks and flying biofuels for the first time over the Pole at -60 degrees Celsius — I discovered that it’s impossible not have change happen inside of you. This leg of my polar circumnavigation was a defining moment that started change in motion that will have a lifelong impact on me. While it’s hard to know what the exact impact will be, it has gotten me thinking, processing and wondering how this experience will affect my present and future life and the future of the planet.

Flying over the South Pole

The impossibly big dream recognized

The first thing I thought when the big 16-ply tires of Citizen of the World touched down on terra firma was, “Oh my God! I did it! I’m alive! I made it!” I learned I am capable of going after, preparing for, and accomplishing something that was bigger than I ever thought I was capable of achieving. I really had gone after the impossibly big dream, which I had dreamed about, written about, and spoken about in my first book, Flying Thru Life.

As I prepared to leave Ushuaia headed southbound that Monday morning, December 16, 2019, I kept my self-talk as positive as I could, but underneath the bravado, I honestly wasn’t sure if I was coming back. I had assessed my chances for survival at 50 percent–not just making it to the South Pole, but a 50 percent chance of being alive after the next 24 hours.

Given all the unknowns and first-time ‘it’s been done’ modifications I had made on the aircraft, I knew I had never embarked on such a difficult journey with a higher probability of absolute failure. I thought about all the people who were counting on me whom I had talked with or heard from in the previous hours and days. Even the local hotel owner, who had been so kind to me, was on my mind. Before I left my hotel room, I packed up my things so if I didn’t make it back, they could be returned to my family without causing the owner much difficulty — he hadn’t asked me to come into his place of business and create extra work for him. This was my doing, my dream — and now, my reality and possibly, my demise.

It wasn’t a dream

Fortunately, my dream became a reality. But, I wondered at first. For the month that followed the successful completion of the South Pole leg I was still floating in the clouds. My feet were not planted firmly on the ground. I really did not believe I had done it. How could I have done it? If you applied a rational thought process, including the laws of physics, to taking a thirty seven year-old airplane that was designed to fly for seven hours and increasing its non-stop flight hours to 18 hours, it was really beyond reason and probability that it would stay in the air. After landing, I walked around in a daze for days actually afraid to wake up in the morning and found myself imagining that I was belted into a bed in a psychiatric hospital or doing meaningless work somewhere realizing I had been living a life getting by day to day having no impact on the world. Sometimes, when I would tell people what I was planning or what I had just done, they would just get a blank look on their faces, as if what I said wasn’t even within their perception of reality. Our interactions reminded me of the story of the natives in the New World who couldn’t see the early explorers off the coast arriving because it was beyond their comprehension. Like the natives, when I shared what I was doing, people would go on as if I had never said anything.

Falling in love with Citizen of the World

I know that during this trip I fell in love with my airplane, Citizen of the World. I think I know what Tom Hanks’ character, Chuck Noland, in the movie Cast Away felt like when he personified that soccer ball into “Wilson,” his best friend, after being alone on an island for so long. Citizen became more than an aircraft to me on that Polar flight.

Truth be told, I was always a little afraid of the power of this aircraft. With 2300 horsepower, a 52-foot wingspan and an enormous roar from engines that are running at 100-percent torque, this machine is a force. My previous airplane, Spirit of San Diego, was an elegant, long-bodied aircraft, but Citizen is all muscle—a brute force like a charging bull that you’re not going to be able to stop. On this flight, Citizen showed me what an old but solid airplane with major modifications is still capable of doing. I put the aircraft under so much strain–and it continued to meet my demands and delivered in such form–that I was left speechless at times. Imagine a plane sitting almost fully loaded with fuel for a South Pole Flight and not springing a leak, not blowing out the struts or bending the wing spar! I remember as I sat waiting for takeoff clearance at Ushuaia, I promised Citizen that I would never demand so much from her again.

Once I took off, the airplane climbed in a narrow channel and I performed a 180-degree turn so heavy-laden with fuel that even I doubted it could be done. Citizen climbed at almost 1800-feet-per-second like it was a walk in the park all the way up to 28,000 feet in 58 minutes. Unbelievable! This is a testament to the brilliance of engineer Fred Gatz, who designed the wing for Gulfstream and did the feasibility study.

Stronger than I could have imagined

In the process of completing this flight, I realized I was so much stronger than I had imagined. The months, weeks, days, hours, and minutes leading up to my departure were the most challenging of my life. The universe accelerated personal issues leading up to my departure. Instead of getting three problems every week they started rolling in at a rate of three per day. It was like the universe was trying to test me with enormous mental and emotional weights and see if I was strong enough — if I was worthy of being an aviation Polar circumnavigator.

On this journey, I built a level of trust in myself that I never had before. I was up for over 30 hours before I completed the mission and returned to bed. I started the flight at 2:30 in the afternoon when I normally would be winding down my day. I had almost called off departure due to the rejected flight plan, winds in the wrong direction for takeoff, permits that we were told we would not need, but actually did need, and because I didn’t want to return to a departure airport in the dark when I was exhausted.

I wondered at take-off and all throughout the flight, “How many times will I be tested on this trip? How strong must I be? What are you trying to prepare me for?” I’m still finding answers, but I know I see the world differently now. A few things I’ve noticed are that I am incredibly grateful for every breath, I walk with a little more confidence, and I believe that God kept me around for a reason bigger than me.

The plane was finally ready

During the two years leading up to departure it seemed like something would break on every flight. New systems that we installed continued to create emergency situations during test flights. All these modifications not working as promised and needed to be repaired, replaced or fine-tuned, which drained my bank account and my patience, delayed my departure three times over two years and made me lose faith in the aircraft. My friends heard me complaining about the enormous cost of this project even with the generous support of my 90-plus sponsors providing help with services, parts and their vast technical expertise. Preparing a plane to perform at a level three times what it was designed to do is a fantastic undertaking—and one I began doubting myself for doing. Miraculously, we finally did reach the point where I knew it could do a flight this big and ambitious. The airplane has worked very reliably during all legs of the flight to date and worked flawlessly on the South Pole leg with the exception of a single fuel gauge that went offline for just about five minutes.

People of the world

One of the most meaningful, enjoyable, and “in-joyable” learning elements of the trip so far is that I have gained enormous respect for all the people I’m meeting around the world. I have seen citizens in the most remote parts of the planet show compassion and respect for my efforts, for my struggle and for what seemed like an impossible mission at times. Prior to the South Pole departure, a group of four young people in Ushuaia became my friends and in the eleventh hour helped me get my permit from Chile. As I flew nine hours into the deepest part of the South Pole and was feeling so alone, I made contact with Cory, an air traffic controller at the South Pole and his colleagues, who complimented me for flying the experiments for NASA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography for the betterment of the planet. It may not seem like a lot, but it meant the world to me that my new friends wished me luck on the nine-hour flight back to Ushuaia. That encouragement reminded me that there’s still a little seven-year-old boy inside me making paper airplanes, and like all of humanity, wanting love and encouragement, a dream to grow into, and family and friends to share the journey with.

Ushuaia Team who helped me get my permit from Chile at the last minute

Change in me

One last thing, and maybe the most important, and to paraphrase social justice leader Mahatma Gandhi — I have realized that the change that is needed in the world must start with each of us. It begins in our hearts and minds and is reflected in the world around us. If we can each find inner peace within ourselves wherever we are, we can then share that peace with others wherever they are.

We are also tasked with taking peaceful action and not waiting for others to do our work for us.  It’s up to each of us to do something positive for our communities, for humanity and the planet. As the International Children’s Choir from nations all around the world has been singing every year since I was a child, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Just before take-off from Ushuaia, Argentina to the South Pole

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.

Dealing with pre-departure delays and jitters: What is your intuition trying to tell you?

As pilots we often rely on our technical knowledge, flight training, and experience to make critical decisions in the air and on the ground. We use this knowledge to decide if we will continue a flight when something fails, to determine if weather will affect us, how our aircraft will perform given the maintenance it has received and what our course of action will be when making go/no-go decisions.

I believe we have another decision-making tool available to us as pilots—our intuition. Call it what you will: gut instinct, a hunch, your sixth sense. Psychology Today refers to intuition as the brain on autopilot—I think of it as an inner voice that always has our back. Regretfully, no training program I’m aware of has ever told us to rely on our intuition, and yet, it offers information that could save our lives in critical decision-making moments.

Case in point: As my departure date for my polar circumnavigation looms ever closer, my airplane, Citizen of the World, has started throwing me some major curves and fits. It has been sending me some very clear messages that leave me feeling a bit uneasy in my stomach. The messages I’m receiving are clear: The airplane is not ready for departure. In fact, it’s like it won’t let me go even though my get-there-itis is pushing me to keep moving.

A lot of technology and new equipment have come together in Citizen of the World in a very short period of time including a new Avidyne Avionics panel, Max Viz infrared sensor, refurbished Honeywell turbine engines, MT propellers, and a Peter Schiff environmental system to name a few. Being an optimist and thinking that this is not my first rodeo (see my equatorial circumnavigation), I assumed the trip would roll out on time and smoothly like back in 2015. Nothing could be further from the truth. This trip is an entirely different animal than an equatorial circumnavigation and much more complex: vastly greater distances, the worst weather on the planet, extreme cold, lack of places to land, pilot fatigue issues, challenging navigation, and a more complicated/modified airplane.

To add insult to injury, for some reason the human factor is also coming into play like it never has before. It’s making my earlier trip complete with engine out at 14,000 feet over the Strait of Malacca feel like a cakewalk (see my book Zen Pilot: Flight of Passion and the Journey Within). Disagreements between contractors, health issues of key players, family issues for supporters, and my own physical challenge of dislocating a shoulder have had me on high alert. Not a great way to start a long-distance solo flight.

As my initial departure date neared, I was starting to lose sleep over these issues and my intuition kept waking me in the middle of the night saying, “Not yet! The plane needs to stabilize and needs more testing.”

The problem is, of course, that all these things result in delays for every scheduled installation or inspection, since the modifications must happen sequentially. For example, the environmental system must be installed and working reliably before the six ferry tanks are installed, which limit access to the environmental system once the tanks are installed.  All of these delays add stress to meeting my departure date.

These issues I have listed do not even account for the random events that plague aviation and life. The things we cannot predict or plan for can have a tremendous impact on us, and even greater consequences when we aren’t paying attention to our intuition or worse, choosing to ignore it. By listening to our intuition and acting on it immediately we clear the air for better solutions to rise up and ease the growing stress that is clogging our mental and emotional engines.

While flying the airplane from Tennessee to New Mexico en route to Gemini Air Group for a third look at the airplane by some very talented mechanics, I noticed the entire right side of the pilot window had cracked and delaminated. This was slightly unnerving given that I was flying 30,000 feet above ground, and that the airplane was pressurized to 6.4 psi cabin differential. I couldn’t help but think that the windshield could collapse in on me at just over 302 knots or 347.3 mph, the speed at which I was currently flying. As I watched the cracking spread to the top of the window, it was as if the Universe was talking to me and stopping me in my tracks. Coincidentally  I was close to my next fuel stop and Gemini Air Group. My intuition was again telling me, “Not ready, you have more work to do on this plane.”

Looking into replacing the window, I was told by one mechanic, “You can fly with it ‘as is,’ it just won’t look pretty.” Aesthetics and get-there-itis aside, my gut was telling me this wasn’t just a delay issue, it was also a financial, and even more important, a safety issue. Heated aircraft windows are made in small quantities and are enormously expensive, slow to manufacture and install, as well as critical for flying at the flight levels I will be flying.

In addition to the windshield delaminating, we became aware that the right engine had been refurbished using bearings for the torque sensor transducer that were potentially defective and needed to be replaced, requiring the prop to be removed and the intake disassembled. Testing the engine would require inflight investigation and shutting the airplane down in flight. Everything continued to point to a delay—but would I listen?

My intuition continued to nudge me. As the clock ticks, we have scrambled to get help from our sponsors/angels. Even more critical is that I’m losing valuable time as the temperatures at the South Pole drops 30 degrees in the month of January alone.

Despite being told countless times that turbine engines are 100 times more reliable than piston engines (I have two turbines on Citizen of the World), it has become clear to me that everything around the turbines is like any other airplane part and subject to failure regardless of what is happening with the turbine engines.

Recognizing what was happening, listening to my intuition, talking with my team, and staying focused on safety, I decided to delay the trip by about 30 days, and then six months, to give the airplane and me more time to prepare. The good news is that the uneasiness I had been feeling subsided, and things began to unfold more easily and gracefully once again—the trip fell back into alignment. Sponsors have come forward to help with some of the costs of the windshield, the mechanics are making repairs, and my shoulder is almost pain free again.

While we can’t qualify our intuition like we can other more technical facts related to flying like our personal minimums, we can still use our intuition to guide us when it comes to our safety and that of our cherished passengers. Developing your sense of intuition is time well spent and is worth consulting before flying. Two simple questions can get you started: “How do I feel about this flight?” and “If there was no stress what would I do?” Learning how to feel your feelings and listen to what your stress is telling you will lead you to the best co-pilot you will ever have. Trust your intuition.

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.

Citizen of the World: The Bridge between Aviation and Space

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

The flight of the “Citizen of the World,” now scheduled for June 2019, is a flight that will change aviation and quite possibly space travel. Yes, this is a bold statement and an impossibly big dream that is on the brink of coming true with the help of a brilliant team of scientists, engineers, and aviation geniuses who inspire us all to go beyond what we think is possible.

People often ask me why I’m taking on a project of this magnitude and risk. Again and again, I come back to this truth: It’s the most ambitious thing you can do with an aircraft unless you have rocket motors to get you out of the atmosphere. In many ways I’m finding with “Citizen of the World” that we are passing the boundary of the earth’s atmosphere into outer space through the technology onboard.

First and foremost, the satellite communicator in my DeLorme InReach Mini from satphonestore.com allows me to use the Iridium satellite constellation to text, email, and post to social media; get weather updates; and reach out for help if I ever need it—all this without needing cell service! Satellite voice communication is also used as a backup should my onboard and backup UHV, VHF, and HF comms develop “issues.” (But we all know that will never happen, right?!)

Second, the flight will be tracked by a new constellation of 67 Aireon satellites. A supplement and follow-on to the Iridium network, this will be the first time that global tracking is available and the first time that an aircraft will be continuously tracked from the South Pole to the North Pole. Twenty-four million subscribers and followers will be watching with the help of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out information. This is an exciting and important contribution to the world because it will help route airplanes around the planet more efficiently while saving time, reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere, and reducing the cost of travel.

Third, “Citizen of the World” will be carrying a proof-of-concept Wafer Craft Spaceship designed by UCSB scientists contracted by NASA. As reported in the Flying Thru Life blog:

The Wafer Scale spacecraft experiment will consist of several small (~ 10 cm diam x 1 cm thick) “spacecraft” that are prototypes for the NASA Starlight program. Each spacecraft will be self-contained except for need a small amount of power (~ 1 watt each). All the spacecraft will be a box that is about 30x30x30 cm. Each spacecraft will have a GPS, optical communications devices to interact with each other, ultra-low power radio (optional), inertial navigation, temperature and optical imaging sensors. No dangerous or poisonous materials will be on-board. In addition to power we will need a GPS cable (RG-174 coax) to a small GPS antenna that can be mounted near a window. Data will be recorded onboard and could optionally be transmitted via a small satellite communication interface back to the US.

The “Citizen of the World” will be transmitting information continuously back to the scientists in the United States. This same experiment will next fly on the Amazon Blue Origin rocket and then eventually on a NASA mission into space in 2059!

Fourth and lastly (for now), speaking of NASA missions, “Citizen of the World” may have an astronaut on board for a leg of the flight. That’s all I can say at this time, but stay tuned and keep dreaming your impossibly big dreams—when the Greeks envisioned “space sailors,” astronauts were a twinkle in the sky, and today they sail around our planet and land on the moon.

In many ways, the boundary between two worlds has become blurred with “Citizen of the World.” Not only are its wings turned toward the sky; this aircraft will get as close to space as possible without actually going there, thanks to the Water Craft spaceship onboard and the array of satellite technology that is being activated.

Call me crazy, but it’s not only me that sees this unique connection on “Citizen of the World’s” pole-to-pole flight and mission, “Oneness for Humanity.” Aviation Weekly & Space Technology editor William Garvey wrote a commentary published online on Sept. 21, and in print in their Oct. 1 to 14 issue:

The aircraft will participate in the Wafer Scale spacecraft experiment using extremely small “spacecraft” prototypes for NASA’s Starlight program, which is exploring using large scale directed energy to propel small spacecraft that could enable humanity’s first interstellar missions.

The intersection of aviation and aerospace engineering and human creativity opens a stream of energy that can change history and expand what’s possible for humanity when we are willing to go beyond what we think is possible.

“Houston, ‘Citizen of the World’ is ready!”

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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