A 19-year-old pilot geared up Saturday morning for a highly ambitious feat: a record-breaking, 29,000-mile solo flight around the world that took off from a small airport in east San Diego.
“I’m just really excited. It’s been a long time planning, and now here we are,” Matt Guthmiller told NBC 7 as he prepared to load his small aircraft and take off from Gillespie Field in El Cajon, Calif.
The teen pilot, who just finished his freshman year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is embarking alone on the long journey, which will include 25 stops in 14 different countries across five continents. He’s flying a 1981 Beechcraft A36 Bonanza N367HP.
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In the process, Guthmiller hopes to break the Guinness World Record for the youngest person to circumnavigate the world by aircraft solo.
According to Guinness World Records, just one year ago that title belonged to Jack Wiegand, a pilot who flew a Mooney M20R Ovation from May 2, 2013, to June 29, 2013, at the age of 21. Wiegand completed his flight in Fresno, Calif., and flew approximately 24,000 miles during his trip around the world.
In September 2013 Australia Ryan Campbell broke Wiegand’s record, completing his solo flight around the world at the age of 19 years, seven months and 25 days old.
Guthmiller will turn that exact age on July 24, so time is of the essence.
Though the bar has been set high, Guthmiller is confident he’ll be able to complete his solo flight in just over one month while clocking about 160 hours of flying time. He said the other young pilots before him inspired him to take on this challenge.
“I thought, ‘Hey, I can do that,’” he said.
After taking off from El Cajon, his first destination is his hometown of Aberdeen, S.D., followed by far-off places like Cairo, Abu Dhabi, Manila, London and Greece. He plans to end his trip back in his South Dakota hometown on July 7.
Before take-off, Guthmiller said he wasn’t nervous, but admitted that might change.
“I think once I head out over the ocean for the first time that could change a little bit but right now I feel fine,” he said. “The biggest thing I’d like to accomplish is to go out and inspire other people to do similarly ambitious things.
Through his journey, Guthmiller hopes to raise money for Code.org, a non-profit that aims to introduce computer science in more schools. He’ll offer advertising space on his plane, apparel and website in order to raise those funds.
His entire journey will be tracked on this website, updated frequently with his whereabouts and progress.
Guthmiller said his love of flying dates back to when he was a young boy playing flight simulator games for hours on end.