There are several things that I’m most excited to share with my friends and fellow pilots as almost two years of complicated preparations come to a conclusion before the Citizen of the World embarks on a record-setting polar expedition over the South and North Poles. First and foremost:
Antarctica. The highest and most mysterious of all the continents, Antarctica is known to have the worst weather on the planet. Add to this, Antarctica offers some of the most challenging navigation on Earth, where the meridians converge and everywhere is north from there! One of the least traveled places on the planet, Antarctica has exotic places I have never heard of before like Elephant Island, Hercules Dome, Ronne Ice Shelf, and the Weddell Sea. This anticipated wonder has even piqued the interest of Smithsonian Magazine editors who asked for photographs of what I see. Because of the heavy fuel load it’s unlikely I’ll be at Citizen’s maximum cruising altitude of 35,000 feet on the outbound leg so everything I see will be up close, raw, and very personal.
Performance. We performed more than 50 modifications to Citizen over the past three years. The airplane was one of the early Gulfstream models with a longer 52-foot wingspan, higher pressurization, and a longer and deeper cabin. Later, the Twin Commander was upgraded with high-altitude Dash 10 engines, five-bladed nickel-tipped scimitar props, and reduced vertical separation minima (RVSM) so Citizen can fly higher and faster at 35,000 feet. We added ceramic coating over the paint for speed, we installed a Peter Schiff Environmental System to reduce weight, for better fuel heating capacity, and to provide non-contaminated bleed-air for pressurization and more speed at altitude (since the system uses less bleed air). To extend Citizen’s range we added three fuel tanks—for a total of seven—to extend the range out to 20 hours of flight time and 5,000-plus nautical miles. Other modifications include Whelen LEDs, higher ply tires with inner tubes from Desser, and an Avidyne/L3 panel with MaxViz Infrared that would beat any kid’s home computer simulator—hands down! For the complete list of modifications, please see more details on our Flying Thru Life website.
Self-confidence. The personal growth that comes from flying solo to remote parts of this beautiful, mystical, and wondrous planet in a highly modified airplane is terrifying but rewarding as well. Taking yourself and your aircraft to their limits is something that a pilot/person never forgets and is loaded with moments that teach us what I refer to as “Zen Moments.” Executing on a mission like this builds a fierce survival instinct, confidence, and a can-do attitude despite all odds. Knowing you are supported by those who believe and trust you unconditionally allows you expand your horizons and push the limits of what you thought was possible in yourself and the world around you.
Civilization. The Citizen of the World will stop in over 26 countries on this polar circumnavigation, giving me the opportunity to meet new and interesting people in exotic places like Tunisia, Madagascar, Dakar, Patagonia, and Antarctica. The differences among people will fade and the similarities will become more prevalent as it becomes more and more obvious that we are all one. We are all are made from the same cosmic stuff and we want the same things—like safety and security for our families, health, financial security, joy, and unity.
Impact on the world. Our mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity” has the potential to change mindsets for the better and is already having tremendous impact on the world. Articles, interviews, and partnerships have been documented globally in over 20 magazines, newspapers, and internet sites. The flight will be tracked in real time globally by over 12 million followers on FlightAware.com using Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out). Our videos are scheduled to be seen by over 20 million people on various TV networks including NBC, ABC, CBS, Dish, Apple TV, Sling, and 36 others starting in November.
Life-changing. The trip will be transformative and packed with lessons that only come from pushing one’s limits, taking calculated risks, dreaming impossibly big and then overcoming all resistance and making it happen (or going with the flow and letting it happen). I recall when I first spotted San Diego after my first trip around the world along the equator back in 2015—it felt like my first step toward what I was put on the planet to do. While I pray for ease and grace, I often find that struggle is what I must overcome. Never have I struggled so hard with professional relationships, timelines, patience, equipment, and technical issues. I find comfort and deeper connection because these challenges also seem to be what helps others see how hard someone is willing to work to make the world and themselves better—and hopefully it will motivate them to do the same with their own lives.
Ultimately, we find that our journeys are best shared with others. We go out into the world, overcome obstacles, persist when our goals seem so far away, learn what we can, and then come back and share what we have discovered. It’s my hope that some of these Zen Moments will help inspire you to stretch and grow beyond your comfort zone and not only go for your impossibly big dreams, but keep going when you want to give up because what you believe in is so much bigger and brighter and life-affirming than what you’re afraid of or struggling with. My prayer is that in the end humankind realizes we all breathe the same air and are, in fact, all connected as one —One Planet, One People, One Plane. Oneness for Humanity.