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Today’s Flight Plan

Today we are honored to have Matt Guthmiller on the show. Recently Matt become the youngest pilot ever to fly around the world solo. At the age of 19, he flew around the world in a 1981 Beechcraft Bonanza, modified to carry lots of extra fuel.

This is no small thing. Very few people have flown around the world solo. There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind while doing it as well; human factors, performance, fuel, weather, customers and immigration, safety, just to name a few.

You may call Matt brave, and he is certainly that, but he is also a go getter. He decided he wanted to do something big, and he went and did it.

His story has touched and inspired millions around the world as he took to the skies. To say that he is awesome is an understatement.

But, the truth is, Matt is just an ordinary pilot like you and I. And, we can do great things too.

His story is no doubt inspirational.

Useful Links

Limitless Horizons (Matt’s Website and Blog)
CBS Interview
Limitless Horizon Facebook
Limitless Horizon Twitter
Matt’s Facebook
Matt’s Twitter

Credits

Matt Guthmiller

Huge thanks to Matt for joining us on this show. Matt, your story is so inspirational to many. It just goes to show what a little imagination and perseverance can do. We’re so glad you did what you did, that you touched the hearts of so many people along the way, and made it home safely to tell the tale. Best of luck in your studies at MIT and your future in aviation!

Music

Big thanks to Atrasolis for providing the great music for our podcast. Please check them out on their Facebook Page or SoundCloud and get the music you’ve heard for free.

Crew

Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.

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Transcript

View transcript

This is AviatorCast episode 31, all around the world!

Calling all aviators, pilots, and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gaps between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff! Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.

Chris: Welcome, welcome, aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer, I have a six-level language. It’s spoken in acronyms like BFR, IFR, IFOS, ETA, METAR and CALF just to name a few. It’s whispered in the wine of gyro instruments spooling up or the rushing air past the windscreen. Yes, I loved flight. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack – a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today.

AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility and a commitment to excellence. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.

Welcome to this, the 31st episode of AviatorCast. I’m absolutely excited to have you here. We have an awesome episode lined up for you. But first I have a very special guest with me here, sitting on my lap, her name is Chelsea. She is my wonderful wife and she is going to read todays review because it comes all the way from Brazil. I don’t speak Portuguese and I’m just so lucky enough that she does. So here she is. She’s going to read the review for you and then translate it.

Chelsea: Okay, this review is by Vindimo from and he says: “Muito bom” – gives five stars.

“Mistura simulação de voo com realidade em assuntos muito interessantes, bom para ficar por dentro destes dois mundos e ainda treinar o listening no ingles”

So that means “It’s a mixture of simulation and real flight with very interesting subjects. It’s great to be in these two worlds and self-train listening in English.”

Chris: So great! She sounds great, doesn’t she?

Chelsea: Singing with the bull?

Chris:[Chuckles] So thats’ todays review. This review comes from iTunes. This is the primary source where we get reviews and where most people find out about our podcast so that we can continue to share these wonderful interviews and information around the world. And we have an awesome, awesome episode today. This is a very interesting and unique one. I’m not sure if we’ll ever have an episode of AviatorCast like this ever again because we have a world record holder with us today. His name is Matt Guthmiller. He is from South Dakota however he has just completed an around the world circumnavigation all on his own, so he flew solo around the world and he was the youngest pilot ever to do so.

So I get in to an interview with him here and we talked about how he did that, some different details about it, and also what the biggest takeaway was and I think that will really surprise you. So here is our hangar talk interview with Matt Guthmiller.

Now a special Hangar Talk Segment.

Chris: Alright everybody. We are honored to have a very special guest with us today. Matt Guthmiller. How are you doing Matt?

Matt Guthmiller: I’m good. How are you?

Chris: Doing fantastic. You’ve been a busy guy, a very very busy guy. So you broke a record recently. Tell our listeners about that.

Matt Guthmiller: Well, I just became the youngest person to fly solo around the world.

Chris: That’s pretty impressive. So we want to talk a little bit about. I know that you’ve been doing a lot of interviews with other people like CBS. Who else have you done interviews with?

Matt Guthmiller: Oh, I don’t even know. I kind of lost track.

Chris: It’s a blur huh?

Matt Guthmiller: Yeah.

Chris: Awesome. Well we’re going to get into that but one unique thing we want about this particular interview with you is most of the listeners here are pilots or aspiring pilots so we want some nitty-gritty details on who you are as a pilot, kind of the details of your flight and some other things that you took away from that experience that you could share with the aviation community.

So the first thing I ask every guest no matter who they are, no matter how much experienced they are, no matter how many records they’ve broken is “How did you fall in-love with aviation?” So tell us about that.

Matt Guthmiller: You know, I really don’t know. It’s just kind of one of those things that I wanted to do for as long as I can remember and has always fascinated me and always wanted to get out of the airport cafe and watch planes take off and land growing up, and played flight simulator games and stuff like that, then finally got bored. One weekend, a few summers ago I realized I could get my private pilot’s license in a few months so I talked my parents to letting me do a little $20, 20 minute intraflight. I think at the time they thought that was just kind of be the end of it and get it out of my system. Clearly that didn’t happen and here I am.

Chris: Wow. So that was just a few years ago huh?

Matt Guthmiller: Right. That was 2011.

Chris: So you’ve been on a fast pace since then. Tell us about kind of your training schedule from there. After you went on that introductory flight, when you did your first solo, when you actually got your private, how many rating you have now, how much time you’ve built, stuff like that.

Matt Guthmiller: Sure. Well I started CB the end of July of 2011 and just kept with it right away. So a little bit of couple of weeks later, like 10 hours or so and got my private on my 17th birthday in November 20, 2011. And got my instrument that following summer, summer in 2012. Last summer, I got my commercial and seaplane rating and also glider rating. Then this summer, I went sailing around the world.

Chris: Yeah, you don’t get a rating for that. That’s just kind of a rite of passage, something you got to dive into. So what was your favorite rating out of all of those? What was the most enjoyable of one of those?

Matt Guthmiller: I mean, just getting my private initially was definitely the most fun. It was so extraordinary going from all of these years of dreaming of flying and playing games and watching planes and stuff like that to actually going out and getting to do it.

Chris: Right, exactly. Cool. I always tell everybody that, even guys that are older maybe even retired, that getting a private license is one of the best things you can do and it’s one of those accomplishments that you’ll always remember. It’s definitely kind of a poignant time not only in aviation career, but in life. It’s just one of those moments that’s defining.

Matt Guthmiller: Absolutely.

Chris: So there are a lot of pilots out there. A lot of every day, ordinary pilots if you will and not a lot of them get this grand idea that they want to fly around the world. So how did all this come about?

Matt Guthmiller: Well basically last May in 2013, I read about this guy from California that was going to do it and beat the youngest. He was 20 at that time and ended up being 21 when he set the record. You know, I just read about him and thought “Gee, I can do that.” and so I emailed the article to all of my closest friends and my parents. Of course their initial reaction was… I was like “I’m going do this next summer.” Their initial reaction was, you know, “Sure, good luck with that.” My dad was just like “What time are you going to be home tonight?”

They didn’t take it seriously at all. I found a plane to use, put it all together and they’ve been pretty supportive and everything since then. For a while, it just felt like a pipedream that was really never going to happen.

Chris: Well, you put it together. It must have taken a lot of research and just getting all those little steps together because this isn’t the easiest thing. So we’re going into that a little bit later. First of all, I want to get into kind of the, I think I understand the purpose of why you did it initially. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that was because you wanted to do something big, right? You wanted to do it.

Matt Guthmiller: Right. I saw someone else who’s a few years older than me and was going to do it. If he could do it, I could do it. Then I decided that I wanted to go out and show other people what kinds of things you can do if you have some big idea, whether it’s going and flying solo around world or coming up with some idea and starting a company. I think that if you go out and kind of break it down into little pieces and figure out how you’re going to put it all together, you can have some big idea and go do it.

Chris: Awesome. So yeah, it seems like it bubbled into something bigger where it was kind of those inspiration that you can actually do big, great, wonderful things and you do matter and those sort of things. Did you have any cool interactions while you were out in your flight, that people came up to you and were inspired?

Matt Guthmiller: Yeah, all over. It was just amazing to see people’s reactions. Throughout the entire world, everybody was just so nice and friendly. I thought it was so exciting. I wanted to tell everyone about it and stuff like that. You know, there are just people that I just kind of randomly meet at an airport in Malaysia or somewhere and I tell them what I’m doing and they think that it’s exciting and they take me around town, out for dinner and go tell all their friends about it and stuff like that. So it was really nice.

Chris: That’s neat. I saw some clips of you. You pulled up your Bonans. I don’t know what airport it was at but there were probably a hundred people there. You got out the airplane, you’re kind of standing there like “Wow, I didn’t expect this many people to be here it’s kind of strange.”

Matt Guthmiller: Right, yeah. I think that was probably Manila. They set a huge welcome there. I think there were probably more people welcoming me in Manila than when I got back to the US.

Chris: Really?

Matt Guthmiller: It was pretty interesting.

Chris: So was Aberdeen your final destination? That’s not where you started was it?

Matt Guthmiller: No, it’s not where I started. I started out in San Diego at Gillespie Field. Officially I set the record when I landed back there but it really wasn’t over for me until I got home to Aberdeen in South Dakota.

Chris: Awesome, yep back home. So was your mom nervous at all? That’s kind of a funny question. But does she get nervous or scared or…?

Matt Guthmiller: I think both my parents were a little nervous but they definitely didn’t show it too much. They knew I can do it so I don’t think they’re too worried.

Chris: Right on. I’m 29 years old and if I did something like that, my mom would be freaking out the entire time. So that’s pretty crazy.

Tell us a little bit about the platform that you used to fly around the world. Now I have time and Bonanzas sa well. I have like 600 hours in Bonanza so they are near and dear to my heart. But tell us what type of equipment you had on board that goes for avionics, any devices you used like an iPad, iPhone. Tell us all the technical details about how you tracked all this and did all this.

Matt Guthmiller: Sure. Well it was a 1981 Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. I’m not even sure how many hours are on the airplane but they just put in a brand new engine, all new avionics. Brand new i0550B, Garmin G500, dual GTN700, touchscreen GPSs, active traffic. I forgot exactly which… looks like the gts800 or something. It gives you a clock position callouts like “Traffic, 2 o’clock high.” or something. Just like air traffic control was so that was pretty nice, especially in some of these places where they don’t have radar and stuff. There was that.

Really my favorite part of the whole panel was just the backup altitude and airspeed and altometer were also digital. So this whole real nice brand new digital panel. I had XM Weather which only works in the US but for outside the US I had the Garmin GSR 56 which gives you worldwide satellite weather in a form of like METARs, TASS, AIIRMETs/SIGMETs, and sort of like a crude infrared satellite depiction and then also let’s you make phone calls and send text messages all over the world.

Then I also had the DeLorme inReach tracker which allowed me to, it connects to your phone via bluetooth so I can send text messages, unlimited text messages anywhere in the world. That was really nice for keeping in touch with friends and family and stuff. I had SpotTracker, I had Spidertracks and just kind of all that. It was a really nice setup. Then of course I took out the four seats in the back and added two 105-gallon ferry tanks. So then I had a couple of extra fuels selectors to go with that.

The aircraft fuel selector would be off left and right. Then right would go to another fuel selector which was either right main which just works like normal or a ferry system. Then from one ferry system, it will go to another fuel selector that would be left or right ferry tank. There’s that to add to it and just all that. Then I also had the digital, I think it’s the JPI 930/830 something like that digital engine monitoring. So that was very nice to have as well.

Chris: That sounds like you had a… You were never really out of contact which is comforting. So if you were in the middle of the Pacific, you can basically send your family a text message, do I understand that right?

Matt Guthmiller: Yeah. What was actually interesting is that there were a few places where I was better connected in the air than on the ground. [Phone ringing] Sorry about that.

Chris: No problem, I can take it out.

Matt Guthmiller: Maybe it will just take a second and I’ll figure out if I can mute this.

Chris: Yeah, no problem.

Matt Guthmiller: I’m not sure how to mute it but hopefully it won’t happen again.

Chris: It’s fine. Is that a landline?

Matt Guthmiller: It is.

Chris: Funny. I didn’t know those existed anymore. Okay, here we go again.

So now tell us a little bit about, actually no a little bit, I think this is where the majority of where our time is going to be spent. I want to talk about kind of the details of your flight from different perspectives. So we’ll talk about I guess, the planning that you did, fuel problems or how you dealt with fuel, takeoff performance, whether customs, immigration, and human factors, all that sort of stuff. So we’ll kind of dive into each one of those separately and then if I have any questions, I’ll kind of follow-up with that.

First off, tell us how this all came together because you obviously had to break this down into component parts. So from a global scale, looking down on it, how did you start to pick it apart and get all the details figured out?

Matt Guthmiller: Well it was a very long process. The first thing I did, the biggest problem really, was finding a plane to use because I didn’t own a plane, my parents weren’t really sold out on buying me a plane, so I had to find someone to lease me a plane which of course isn’t terribly common on small planes and someone who would not only lease me a plane but let me go fly it solo around the world.

So I spent about nine months just going on websites like Controller and just calling everyone that I could find that had some sort of plane that they were selling or maybe even available for lease that might work for the trip and calling them. The vast majority said, “They couldn’t help me.”, “They’d look into it a little bit and get back to me.” but never really got back to me and finally found a guy in San Diego who had a Piper Meridian. I thought that would be great because I had a little time in a Meridian and I figured that I don’t have to worry about finding ads gas. They’ve got the added reliability of a turban and stuff like that.

He was willing to lease me this Piper Meridian and go fly it solo around the world so I felt great. The insurance company thought that was something they could probably work with and turned out they came back and then the insurance doesn’t fly a $2,000,000 plane solo around the world for a 19-year old with 500 hours was a little expensive. Fortunately he happened to have a Bonanza and set so I went with that. Really it turned out to just be a phenomenal plane for the trip.

Chris: Very great platform. They can carry so much and you guys actually installed some more fuel system components, let alone the avionics. So tell us about the fuel.

Matt Guthmiller: Yes. So then I guess you know, the other thing was actually fuel. Fortunately the guy that was leasing me the Bonanza had done a little work delivering planes, selling and buying planes all over the world so he knew a few different ferry pilots, the one that does all of his own stuff, puts the ferry tanks in and whatnot. So in May, I flew the plane out to Las Vegas and had him put the tanks in.

Of course before he would actually put the tanks in, he made me go fly with him and do some stuff like stalls and stuff like that to make sure that I really had a good handle on flying the plane before he can put the tanks in. That was about a week long process actually. Convinced the FAA that it was a good idea to sign off a 19-year old with 500 hours flying a Bonanza 25% overgrossed over the Pacific.

I got that done, got that put together. Then of course there was the issue of all of the… first of all just finding airports that had avgas. That’s a big one once you get past your up. Everybody just has jets so they only have jet fuel so you have to kind of go through it and just find the few places that actually have avgas. You know have it and any sort of ruddily available state and plan the route around that. Of course, that changes sometimes.

One person will tell you “Yeah, they’ve got avgas here.” and the other one will say “No, they don’t have avgas.” I go back and forth and finally get that all figured out and make a few changes here and there and stuff like that, then find a couple places to do a little light maintenance. Of course it was permanence and things like that to worry about once you get past Europe also. You kind of get landing permits to reach the places you’re going to land, getting overflight permits to fly over different countries. That turns out to be this big whole heavily bureaucratic process.

There’s companies that specialize in entertaining those permits because if you did it yourself, I probably still be stuck out in Greece. I tried of couple of companies to work on that. It’s actually interesting because one of the companies… I’d lined up one company to do the permits and thought that I was all set there and then about April or so before I was going to leave on the trip he decided, he wasn’t going to have enough time for the trip. He wasn’t going to have time to handle my trip. He just had too many things going on so then I had to go find someone else to do the permits and there was like a month to go.

Chris: Wow.

Matt Guthmiller: So that was a little interesting, stuff like that. You cross little things like vaccines and you had to kind of go figure out what I should worry about in that respect. I had to get Hepatitis B and Typhoid vaccines and stuff like that. Just all these little things really. For the longest time, it just felt like it was never going to happen because I’ve spent so much time just figuring all these little things out and putting it all together and still sitting in my dorm room at MIC doing finals and planning to go fly around the world in a week and so…

Finally that all came together and obviously made it happen.

Chris: That’s pretty crazy. I would’ve never thought about the vaccines thing. Is that something that that travel, maybe not a travel agency but that company that does all the permits suggested or is that something you found out?

Matt Guthmiller: Yeah it was just something that I’d come across somewhere in research in all of this. Someone had recommended looking into and the CDC actually has a little website that tells you, just select the country and they’ll tell you what vaccine you should get if you’re going there, what vaccine you might consider if you’re going there and stuff like that.

Chris: So what kind of endurance do you have with all of that fuel on board, how far can you go and how long?

Matt Guthmiller: It varied a bit. I only flew two legs with a really sort of full fuel. But those two legs I had about 19 ½ hours of endurance and I was running a hundred degress where it should be. So I knew that if I really had to, I could go 50 to Lena Peak and really have quite a bit more endurance even.

Chris: Yeah, definitely. So do you know how far that distance was? Did you figure out what the distance was? You said endurance was 19 hours but…

Matt Guthmiller: Yeah, it was a little hard to figure because speed varied so much with all that extra weight. I started off doing 145 knots. Even I think one time I have this, I probably started off a little close to 140 knots then I decided to burn off fuel and eventually built that up to about 160 knots. But I figured about 150 knots or so, 19 ½ hours is somewhere in the range of 2,900 hundred nautical miles or so. So I figured I had a solid 2,900 nautical miles. So if I ran Lena Peak and probably push side into the wall, into the 3,300 nautical miles.

Chris: That’s pretty wild. So what was your longest leg?
Matt Guthmiller: The longest leg ended up being from Pago Pago American Samoa to Hilo Hawaii. That was about 16 ½ hours. I don’t even remember how many miles I ended up being because I had to go around the weather and stuff like that but it was a long flight.

Chris: That’s pretty crazy. So you obviously had a little of a buffer there to, where you could have a bit of, I don’t know, contingency plan if you needed to. Obviously you used some of that to go around the weather. I’m sure that’s good to have there. Is there, I mean between American Samo and Hawaii, is there really anywhere else to land?

Matt Guthmiller: There’s a couple of small islands that you could land at if you really had to escape the weather or had some problem or something. They don’t have fuel. There’s one that does have avgas. It took me a few days though because it varies so much that I had to confirm it. It was right when I was ready to go from Samoa to Hawaii so it took a couple of days to actually get a hold of anyone there. But it turned out that Christmas Island which is about halfway between Samoa and Hawaii did have avgas, $1,000 a barell though. They don’t really have internet or phones there so it’s really hard to get a hold of people.

I figured that I didn’t really want to get stuck there for a couple of days waiting for whether either… It was hard enough in Samoa to get on the internet or call people. So the idea of just being able to call from the sat phone in a plane didn’t seem too appealing. It wasn’t the option. But unfortunately I didn’t meet it. I was originally planning to go from Samoa to Honolulu but I ended up going to Hilo instead because I wasn’t quite sure, sort of about halfway or so that I would actually have enough fuel to go to Honolulu. It ended up that I had landed with about 2 ½ hours of fuel in Hilo.

Chris: Better play it safe.

Matt Guthmiller: Right. So I did 16 ½ hours to Hilo. Did a couple of hours of customs there and then another hour to Honolulu. So I finally got to Honolulu about 4:30 in the morning.

Chris: Wow. Did you have people waiting for you there to sort of thing? Is that why you want to bump over there?

Matt Guthmiller: Not really. I just thought the following day I was going to do an oil change in Honolulu so I had to get there anyway. So I figured I just go ahead and get there right then. It’s a little interesting because when I got to the airport in Honolulu and went to the general aviation parking section and parked the plane, got out, then there was no one around. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the airport. I couldn’t find the gate.

I finally ended up wondering around and I found on Google Maps the number for the airport and finally after getting transferred a couple of times got to security and figured out or had them send someone to come let me out of the gate because I couldn’t figure out how to get to the taxi that was waiting on the other side.

Chris: Funny. I think I know the spot you’re talking about. I went flying out there in April and it’s kind of confusing. It’s all locked down and just a little different.

Matt Guthmiller: Especially in 4:30 in the morning.

Chris: Yeah, everyone’s gone. Hardly any traffic that time of night.

Matt Guthmiller: Right.

Chris: So I want to kind of go through an evolution of what it was like on one of those longer legs from a performance perspective. So you loaded up the airplane with fuel, you’re ready to go in American Samoa, what’s your takeoff performance? What are you looking at as far as how you actually go through this procedure? Because you don’t take this off like a regular Bonanza. This is going to be a completely different flight profile right? So tell us about that.

Matt Guthmiller: Right. I mean there’s no real published performance data on it. So really you’re kind of a test pilot just going out and figuring out what it’s going to be like. Leading up to that, in most of the flights, I was in about 10% overweight or so. So I did know how what it was like to fly heavy but not anywhere near what it ended up being like 25 or even a little bit more overweight. It did turn out in Samoa that the meter on the fuel pump was off a little bit so I actually had about an extra 10 or 15 gallons that I didn’t realize I had so I was even heavier than I was expecting.

It was definitely a really heavy takeoff. I guess during fueling, I had to make sort of a makeshift tail stand with a little bucket and a couple of bricks that I found lying around to put on to the tail tie-down rings so the nose gear would stay on the ground. When I hopped in the plane, I had to have someone to hold the tail up for me while I got in and got the engine started. Once the engine was started I was like, “Okay” and still felt a little bit that I was going to tip over backwards. But I just kept the power up and the taxi holding the breaks and then I ended a little runup and got on the runway. It’s a nice long 10,000 foot runway.

I still did a little short field takeoff. I ended full power before releasing the breaks. It probably took about 4,000 or 5,000 feet to get in the air. By the end of the 10,000 foot runway I’d say about 100 or 150 feet. It was a really slow climb and I was climbing out at about 95-97 knots and getting little trips at the stall horn. That’s a little nerve wrecking too. You know out of the ocean, you look back you see the waves crashing under the wing. It’s an interesting view.

Also because the CG was so far aft. It was very pitchy. So just every little gust or every little control input, you get kind of this big, I don’t know just get this little pitchy oscillation so it kind of felt like you’re on a boat. Even getting up into cruise which took quite a while to actually climb up. Still for the first couple of hours because the CG was so far aft, nice little rock.

Mostly I get rid of it hand flying but it’s a little more pronounced with the auto pilot. I did end up using the auto pilot because I didn’t want to hand fly for 16 and a half hours.
Chris: Right, totally.
Matt Guthmiller: It kind of did feel like I was on a boat for a couple of hours there was just this nice little pitch. I started off, I climbed up to 7,000 feet initially. I was doing about 145 knots there and then I got some clouds. I wanted to stay on top those so I could keep an eye on the weather.
When I climbed up to through that real slow to 9,000 feet. There were a couple of times there I just had to, it was like, if you do 145 knots true in levels but as soon as you increase the angle of the attack, just a tiny bit to start climbing, the airspeed would just lead off. So what I kind of worked well was to build up the airspeed, climb up that… as much as I can get where the airspeed where fleeting off so fast, get to the stall horn, level off there and build up some airspeed again and just kind of doing that until I get up to 9000 feet because it just wouldn’t climb at all otherwise.
That was a little of interesting, then I got up to 9000 feet so did about 145 knots for a few hours and then gradually built up to about 160, 165 knots I suppose, by the time I got to Hawaii.
That was a nice long flight. Of course that was a really tough flight just in the planning, the weather because as you intertropical convergence zone, along the equator, there’s just always thunder storms. The forecast, it really doesn’t matter what the forecast is, you know. They just say there is thunderstorm, there will be thunderstorms, or there might not be thunderstorms or some would say aren’t going to be thunderstorms and there still might be thunderstorms. You kind of have to just look at the satellite and get the timing right.
Of course it was hard because some of it was about 7 to 8 hours in the Bonanza from the equator so you have to look at the satellite now, hope that there’s little path there and then hope that 8 hours later, there’s still a little path there. I was kind of stuck there for a couple of days and just waiting for the weather to improve so I can get the timing just right.
And then I finally made it and just kind of went a little bit by the real rough infrared satellite I could get on this data link weather on the plane and then calling and texting people to go and look on Weather Underground and get the satellite up. Everything is high, the latitude and the longitude of where this whole ended and we can… and stuff like that and then just kind of route like that and hope by the time I got there, I would still have enough fuel to make it all the way to Hawaii.
Chris: Right on. That’s pretty cool. We’ve kind of talked about the performance and that’s all pretty incredible by the way. It’s so different from any other flying that you do. You are kind of out there on your own just doing it, testing these things out and trying to stay safe and thinking on your feet sort of thing.
Matt Guthmiller: Right, right.
Chris: What about the human factors part of this? This is 16-hour flight, you don’t have crew reserve, any rules like that, it’s all up to you. What do you do in situations like this? How do you stay awake? How do stay alert? How do you keep yourself occupied? Because that could get pretty boring. Although, I guess it is pretty exhilarating too, right?
Matt Guthmiller: Right. That flight in particular, it was pretty easy to stay awake just because for the first half of it, there’s so much going on. Just to make sure I was going to be able to get around this weather up ahead, keeping eye on exactly where that was at all the time. Managing the fuel, the pitchiness of the plane and stuff like that and just getting through that. Once I was actually past that weather, you knew that it was just going to be clear for the rest of the way. I was just so excited to be finally getting back to the US. You know, land in Hawaii, it was just too exciting to fall asleep or something.
I also got really nice view there. I got this nice full moon off one side, the sun just blow the horizon on the other side and all of these crazy cloud layers and kind of hundreds of miles of the edge of this big storm size going around. Really a great view and finally made it to Hawaii.
It was a little hard staying awake on the flight from Hilo, Hawaii over to Honolulu.
Chris: Oh, yeah.
Matt Guthmiller: The flight actually just getting from Samoa to Hawaii was pretty easy and of course, really and all of the flights, Coke and Oreos seem to help.
Chris: Yeah. I heard the Oreos thing. That’s pretty funny.
Matt Guthmiller: So those are the kinds of the two things that I could consistently find all over the world. That worked out pretty well, I had plenty of sugar to keep me awake.
Chris: You can be a sponsor for Oreos. I bet they’ll love it.
Matt Guthmiller: I have to look into that.
Chris: You mentioned the, the customs and immigration and visa stuff earlier, did you have problems with that as you were flying around to these different countries? Did you have run-ins with the authorities? Did you get intercepted by any jets? Probably not that…
Matt Guthmiller: Nothing too bad. I mean, a lot of these countries there’s a couple hours of paper work on both ends. When you get there, it’s a couple of hours’ process to wait for everybody to figure out all the places you are going have to go. They go in between all these immigration guys, custom guys, whoever else, some quarantine… There’s all of these different things to do and stuff like that.
It usually took a couple of hours on each end but on the whole nothing too bad. In Egypt at one point, I was with some of the groups I was working with to get all the permits and everything. It was called General Aviations for Egypt so they’re right in Cairo. It was kind of run by this one British expat and this Egyptian guy. I was one of them and we were going around and doing some sightseeing in Cairo. We went to this little open air market. It’s one of these Indiana Jones-ish type place where you get to like a little sort of intersection and these hallways and outdoor market place. When you look down like all three of them, they just look the same, where the bad guy would slip in to disappear or something.
Chris:Yeah.
Matt Guthmiller: We were going around that and taking pictures of all this stuff, pretty interesting. Apparently, someone decided they didn’t like us just walking around taking pictures and not actually buying anything. We get to the end of it and a couple of cops come up to us and point to our cameras and told us that we had to go with him. We were kind of freaking out a little bit because we are not sure why we had to follow them.
They don’t speak English so they can’t explain. They’re just kind of pointing to the cameras. We weren’t sure if it was, if someone was just upset of us taking pictures in this market or somehow figured out that we’ve been taking pictures of tanks earlier in the day or something like that. So we had to follow these cops and finally after walking with them down the middle of this busy street for a few blocks, they finally just told us we could go.
Well apparently, it was just that someone was unhappy with us taking pictures so they wanted to make it look like they we were doing something at that. That was a little interesting. It’s not something that would happen in the US, for example and stuff like that. On the whole, that went pretty smoothly.
Chris: That’s good. You know there’s the opposite side of that too, right? Where, I’m sure one of the things that you felt and learned is that there are wonderful people all over the world. Tell us a little about maybe some of those experiences or that particularly.
Matt Guthmiller: It was great. London and Rome. London and Rome, India and Malaysia, for example, these General Aviation Support – Egypt guys knew different pilots and people in each of those places that they’ve worked with in the past. They set me up with them to go take me around some sights, or up for dinner or something.
In London I met up with a couple of pilots who had flown Cherokee from London to Australia last fall. I went out for dinner with them. I had a great time. In Italy, they hooked me up with this pilot they knew there. He took a whole day off from work to go take me around all the sights, for meals and stuff all day. That was great.
In Greece, the General Manager of Starwood Hotels in Greece had found out about my trip in CNN. He sent me an email like, “Do you have any plans while you are in Athens?” I’m like, “No”. He put me up in this, basically, it’s the nicest hotel in Athens. The president of Azerbaijan was staying there while I was staying there and stuff like that. Hired a little private tour guide to take me around the city and did my laundry and gave me a couple bags of snacks to take along in the plane. A big case of bottled water, stuff like that. It was really great. We had lunch with him and his family and all that kind stuff.
Chris: Wow.
Matt Guthmiller: We just had a great time there. Had a great time in Cairo with these guys from General Aviation Support – Egypt I was working with. There are other times, you know like, I would just run into someone at the airport and tell me what I was doing, they think it is pretty interesting and then decided they are going to drive me around town then take me out for dinner and stuff like that so that was great.
In Hawaii. A taxi driver told the owner of some pub that he went to about what I was doing and turned out he was a pilot. That part was really interesting. He gave the taxi driver some free really good fish and chips to bring me when he pick me up at the hotel to go back to the airport to fly to California and stuff like that.
So there’s all these little things everywhere where people were just really nice and friendly and just really great.
Chris: That’s great, probably one of the best parts of the trip.
Matt Guthmiller: Yeah, it really was. I mean, it’s especially really nice when you are flying around the world all by yourself to just have all these people everywhere that are just so nice to you.
Chris: Yeah, totally. I want to talk a little bit about some experiences that taught you about flight safeties. Some things you’ve learned on this flight or flights, I mean, it’s hard just to call this a flight but this journey, this excursion, this adventure that you’ve been on – things that specifically taught you something new about flight safety. Does anything stand out as far as that’s concerned?
Matt Guthmiller: It’s kind of hard to say. There were definitely a lot of things that I kind of learned and a few things where I thought you know, “How did I get myself in this position?” There are little things like just the heavy take offs, just being really careful about airspeed and really kind of understanding “You fly the plane, you don’t pay attention necessarily to exactly what your airspeed is because you don’t know what it’s supposed to be and stuff like that and just keeping the plane in the air, and sticking with basics.”
Like if you get a little gust and all of the sudden you’re sinking at 200 feet a minute and you are only 200 feet above the ocean. You just got to put the nose down and go with it and get some airspeed and not pull back and stall and end up in the water or something like that.
Whether just sitting on the ground in the middle of nowhere for a couple of days if you have to, then keep going and being prepared to go around some other or come back or go somewhere else or something like that.
It’s so different dealing with thunderstorms there because I’m so used to here. Most of the time if there’s some thunderstorms, a lot of times I don’t even give a second thought to it. I just go hop up on the air. Air traffic control has weather radar. They give you vectors around it and you are all set. Most of the rest of the world, especially out over the ocean, they don’t have weather radar. It’s fine because most of the traffic there is just airliners. They all have their own weather radar but for me, you just have to stay out of the clouds and make sure I could see where the really tall ones were and avoid those.
Sometimes that meant finding, seeing a couple of holes and I’d usually try to pick the brighter one and hope that on the other side it was clear. Sometime it was, sometimes it wasn’t. I had to turn around and come back and try the other hole or just go 100 miles left or right at course and go around the entire thing. The whole time you are doing that keeping track on how much fuel you’ve got and how much time it’s going to add the flight and make sure you can still make or have some alternative or something and stuff like that.
It’s really a lot of decision making, a lot of just really sticking to the basics and making sure everything was safe as it could possibly be while also being out there and doing these really long flights in crazy exotic places all by myself.
Chris: Right. I think that’s one of the things I’ve notice throughout our conversation is that there wasn’t necessarily anything scary or unforeseen but that’s largely because of the planning you had ahead of time and the decisions you made while you were on the trip.
Whether those be decisions made on the ground or the decisions that you made on the fly while you were on the air, really just breaking that chain that leads to accidents and making sure that you are doing everything correctly. It sounds like, particularly speaking about your, the one we got in the detail with between American Somalia and Hawaii that every step of the way you were just thinking about what you needed to do for that flight moment. And what that flight moment meant for the future of the flight and things like stopping in Hilo instead of going to Honolulu. Little decisions like that could end up being a potential problem down the road that you made and turned out great. It was uneventful and that’s kind of what you want from the flight safety perspective but it was very eventful from the perspective of just being such an amazing journey.
Matt Guthmiller: Sure.
Chris: What advice do you have for upcoming pilots, for people that are wanting to get their license? Let’s say that they’re not necessary young guys, what advice would you give them?
Matt Guthmiller: The biggest take away that I’ve had from this whole thing and I hope that everybody else has is just that, I think I probably mentioned this before, if you have some idea go out and break it down and figure out how to go do it. Whether that’s flying around the world or having an idea and go and start your own company or just getting your private, you know.
Those all kinds of little issues you might have. Figuring how to pay for it, figuring how to fit it in your schedule and things like that, just getting over some little hump and some little issue that you’ve encountered while training, something that you can’t quite get down. You just got to get out and break it down and analyze it. There is always a way to make something happen. Just go do it.
Cross flying is a lot of fun. I’d recommend it to anyone. It was a lot of fun just growing up and going out eating at the airport café and playing flight simulator games and stuff but actually doing it for real is just so much better and such an incredible experience. It just gives you so much freedom. Whether you could go doing something like this or and go fly around the world or just go fly ten minutes with a couple of friends and go find some interesting new restaurant in little town nearby or something. There’s just so much you could do with it.
Chris: Right, definitely. When you first started out, you mentioned that you used flight simulators back in the day. Do feel like that helped you eventually get into flying?
Matt Guthmiller: I think so. There were just so many things I knew going in because of that, definitely it probably made things easier. I think instrument flying especially because it’s one kind I want, especially with like computer, flight simulator games. The panel takes up the whole screen so you end up, you know, at least I’d always fly the big jets, you know and try to fly some isles in some horrible, awful weather conditions and stuff like that.
When I got the real plane, flying isles in perfect weather under the hood for the first time, it was just a piece of cake. I think that definitely helps. You just learn so many little things about… Even I always played Microsoft flight simulator so they have a little simulated air traffic controls so I even knew a lot of that, sort of how that worked and that phraseology and stuff like that. I’d say it definitely helped. I had a lot of fun before I could start flying because of it.
Chris: Yeah. I think my experience is a lot the same as yours because I went through my youth, not necessarily wanting to be a pilot the whole time but is always just kind of around. I did model airplanes, I did the flight simulator thing and then one day I am like, “I can actually become a pilot and get a license. Why don’t I just do it?”
Matt Guthmiller: Right, exactly.
Chris: It’s just one of those things. One thing I like about your advice was that you said to “Just find ways to do it.” I think that’s what a lot of people need to do. They need to get creative about how they actually pursue these things. Whether that be like you said, getting a pilot license or starting a company or whatever but specifically to a pilot license. You’ve got to be creative of how you get there because I think we all think about it or most people think about it in a sense of doing it dollar for dollar, you know, just straight out paying for it.
What I see in your experience is that you didn’t just go out and buy an airplane. You found partners along the way, if you will, people on your team if you will, that helped you along the way. Like this guy that leased the airplane. It all kind of worked out. It wasn’t the exact path you thought it was going to be but it all worked out in the end because you kind of have that intension that it was going to happen. I think that’s definitely a good lesson.
Matt Guthmiller: Yeah and it’s actually interesting because a couple of months before I’d even gotten this full idea to fly around the world, I looked into just a little bit what it would be like, would it be possible to go fly a small plane like over to Europe or something and probably cool way and take a few friends and go explore Europe or something and find out people do it.
There’s even little companies that will organize sort of “plan it all out for you” and make it into a little vacation with a group of planes and stuff like that. That’s really expensive. I guess it’s possible but it’s something I’ll do 30 years from now when I retire from whatever I end up doing. Then I read about this other kid then I realized “Dude, I can go do that too.” and find ways to make it work, raise money and support a really cool charity along the way and stuff like that, figured it all out and actually made it happen. I never would have dreamed it before that. Even now, I can still feel for the longest time and still felt it wasn’t going to happen but finally just figured out a way to make it happen and you could do that with anything.
Chris: And now, you’ve done it. Has it settled in yet at all? Have you kind of come to grips with all of this?
Matt Guthmiller: It’s still just a really weird feeling. A really weird feeling when I got back to California and just went from these a month and a half of flying for 12 hours and spending a few days in an exotic new location, flying for another 12 hours and just repeating that and then finally just being done. That was a really weird feeling. Now to think back and realize that I was flying by myself in this little Bonanza over the pyramids a month ago…
Chris: Yeah.
Matt Guthmiller: Or a month and a half ago, it’s just crazy. It’s a wonderful experience and a lot of work. It’s just so surreal.
Chris: Out of everything that we’ve talked about so far, about this journey that you’ve taken, what’s the biggest take away that you have from your experience?
Matt Guthmiller: I think the biggest thing, like I said, the aviation safety aspect of it. Staying with all these basics that you’ve learned while you’re getting your pilot license, making that work on a huge scale like this to make something that’s just really safe.
I was really impressed by all of these just incredibly friendly, kind people that I met all over the world. Just to see the landscapes, the cultures will change but the one constant was just finding these incredible people everywhere. That was really interesting kind of experience.
Chris: That’s cool. I really like that. It’s not aviation but then again it is because that’s how you got there and it’s pretty incredible. Along with that I find that there are people all over the world that are not only great and wonderful people, I definitely believe that, but there are people that love aviation. It’s like this universal language and universal desire to want to be in the air. I think that’s quite incredible.
Matt Guthmiller: Yeah.
Chris: Alright, Matt. So any last words before we sign off here.
Matt Guthmiller: I think we’ve covered everything but like I said again, if you have some idea, go out figure how to do it and get it done.
Chris: Alright, will do. I’m going to take your advice as well. I really appreciate you being on the show and we hope to hear more from you. I hope you go for another record or some kind, that would be cool.
Matt Guthmiller: Yeah, we’ll see. Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun.
Chris: I appreciate it Matt thanks.
Matt Guthmiller: Bye.
Ready for takeoff, we’ll be departing in five.
Chris: Alright, how incredible was that? It’s quite amazing what Matt has done, flying around the world but what’s even more amazing is how it was all put together. Actually the biggest take away he has was all the wonderful people that helped him out along the way on his journey. One thing that I mentioned in our interview with him is that I found that there are just so many people around the world that love aviation and it’s this universal language that we all understand.
We just want to fly. We have this desire to fly. It is so great that so many people took care of him along the way. Congratulations, Matt. It took a lot of hard work. I’m sure it won’t settle in for a while as far as how big this actually was. They did a fantastic job and I really thank you for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. I’m sure that you will have inspired many of our listeners here and so does much appreciated. Keep up the awesome work. We hope to hear more from you. Keep at it, throttle on as we say.
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  • JD

    I enjoyed your interview with Matt. At 76 I have a lot of time on my hands, so I flew the entire flight in an FSX Carenado A36 with Matt. Some of it, of course at different times. The 2 14 hour legs I had to break up into 3 saved flights. Using Flight Aware, Radar24 and LiveATC I was able to stay very close to him most of the flight.

    Since his epic flight, Matt continues to log hours with round trips from Aberdeen. Two trips to MI. One to Wisconsin, two to Mn and 1 to the east coast. I also flew these with him.

    I wish Matt well on his future.

    JD

    • Wow, that’s really cool! I’m sure Matt would love to hear that you did that. Next time, get some Red Bull and to it without sleeping 😉

      Only kidding!

  • JD

    Hi Chris,
    Matt was aware–we were in contact at different points of the flight. When he left Aberdeen going to the east coast his flight plan took him a mile south of my house here in Mankato, MN. I sat out on my front step and watched him break out of the clouds just south of me.

    The Red Bull would have been no help for my “bum.” That was where the trouble layed.(sat)

  • JD

    Chris,
    I was hoping Matt would explain the incident regarding refueling in the Emirates. The 2 jokers that were doing the refueling started pumping diesel oil in his aux. tanks. He took a picture of the pallet containing 4 55 gal drums clearly marked diesel oil and av gas. To make it more ironical the barrels were clearly different colors. Could have spelled the end of the trip.

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