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Youngest Solo Flight Around the World


Ryan Campbell (Image by Dylan Robinson)

Ryan Campbell from Australia has a lot to be proud of. He knows and understands the true value of the work involved to achieve something grand. He is the first youngest pilot to ever fly solo around the world. He is nineteen. I can only wonder what further great heights Ryan will achieve down the track. I had the pleasure of chatting with Ryan to find out more about his world record adventure. For big dreamers, Ryan recommends setting goals, doing the research, seeking out a mentor and support, plan and do not lose sight of your goal even when challenges arise.

Melanie: Ryan, what pushed you to want to fly around the world and set a new record?

Ryan: It started when I was young. When I was only six years old I was taken to the front of an airliner in Vanuatu. I was shown around the flight deck and met the pilots. I got to play with the switches. I was young and influential. From there I always wanted to be a jumbo jet pilot. I thought I would have to grow up, finish school, get a job and get my driver’s license before I could fly. It was on my 15th birthday that I was reading this article on a website. I nearly fell off my chair. I realised I could fly at a young age. I did a lot of research. I looked to flying lessons and did this every couple of weeks. At fifteen, I began to fly solo in an airplane. From there I had this urge to do everything at a young age. At 18 I had my commercial licence, which I spent 2 ½ months at Redcliffe studying on my own.

I kept it a secret. I did not see my dream as achievable. Yet I would be dreaming off in my own world. I spent a lot of time researching online and had a basic understanding. Yet I couldn’t feel like I could do it.

I found out the first person to fly solo in a helicopter was Dick Smith. He is not just the face of peanut butter. I did more research on google. I got in contact with Ken Evers who flew around the world in 2010. He said you if you can find someone to back you up. I will support you. All questions I had, he had the answers. Four weeks he offered mentoring.

I asked my parents and their support was surprising, as it was such a big request. I had the support of six people – including family, friends and my flight instructor. Then I organised a face to face meeting with Ken. He answered all my questions. Then we spent two years flat out trying to achieve this goal. We raised a quarter of a million dollars. I also learned a lot in business as well as planning, law, money etc. We had to plan in preparation. Then I was ready to take off.

Melanie: Literally.

Ryan: Ahh yes. (laughs)

Melanie: Did you have someone else flying behind you in another aircraft to assist with any engineer complications/air craft maintenance that could have presented itself?

Ryan: No.

Melanie: So you had to learn about aircraft maintenance/trouble shooting as well?

Ryan: From my years of interest in flying I have a basic understanding. Plus I met with a local mechanic a week before take-off to take me through everything. I also had a basic tool kit for a flat tire etc. All the maintenance was pre-planned. How well it went was how well it was planned.

Ryan Campbell PhotoImage by Dylan Robinson

Melanie: Did you have one destination that was your favourite?

Ryan:  Impossible to answer. I would say my top seven locations were:

  1. Van Nuys Airport landing in California. I crossed the Pacific, leaving the water behind. It was the longest leg of flight, totalling 15 hours. I landed into runway 16R. It was huge. The Van Nuys Airport is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the world.
  2. Where I landed in Wisconsin was huge. 12,000 planes land there in a week. It is insane. Unbelievable. 
  3. Crossing the Atlantic was cool.
  4. Airspace Vancouver made me think about the fighter pilots that were my age.
  5. Crossing Saudi Arabia. It was boring yet interesting.
  6. Landing back in Broome, Australia, was amazing to have a beer at the pub.
  7. Then when landed in Wollongong, it was huge. Kids had come to say  'hi' and to take a photo of the air taxi. It made me realise my travels had a bit of an effect.

Melanie: Did you get to do much sight-seeing or were you mainly landing at airports, refuelling, taking a nap and getting back in the aircraft?

Ryan: It depended on where it was and how much preparation I needed to do for the next departure. In Hawaii, a local took me cruising around a volcano which was pretty cool. In Iceland, I worked hard the first day to get everything done and booked a tour for the next day.

In France I had to get to the airport and rode on a red Vesta with a white helmet. Just like what you see in the movies. It was fun. It was the coolest thing I did outside of the airplane. Greece was complicated, so I just focused on the airplane.

Melanie: How long was your venture?

Ryan: Two months and one week.

Melanie: Did you ever to start to feel homesick?

Ryan: No not really. There was a time in Greece, there was approval issues that had been sorted on my end. It was a nightmare. The language barrier made it difficult. I was pretty taken aback. This went on for an hour. Then somebody provided a translator and we sorted it out. It was the closest point to where I thought about coming home. But I would not just go on another airline and go home. For me, there was only one way - it was to fly the airplane. I did not want to give up. I just focussed on my challenge.

Melanie: Now, you have achieved this awesome world-record, what is your next big dream to conquer?

Ryan: In 2014, I hope to be doing school tours and talking to kids about getting into flying. I am seeking partners and sponsors to help me do this. Long term, I would like to move to USA and fly corporate jets.

Melanie: On that, would you want to own your own airline business down the track?

Ryan: I just want to live and breathe it [flying]. I do not want to be behind a desk. I do not want to worry about the business. I just want to fly. Perhaps later in life, I might start a business in flying. I want to be a corporate flyer. Live free.

Melanie: What do you want young people around the world to take from this experience of yours?

Ryan: This is my wildest dream. There is nothing bigger than this. Then to do it as a teenager is amazing. I was going to wait another year but my mentor suggested to do this when I was nineteen. It made me work hard because there was a deadline. In short – anything is achievable. As long as you have your head screwed on right. Have sensible goals and be mature about it. Go about it the right way and people will support you.

Someone said to me, why not just do it? And I listed all the reasons – no money etc. He said, all you need is courage and push and put yourself out there and then you can go out there.

And by doing this, I also met phenomenal people. I met some of my idols and they held high regard for me. It was amazing.

I believe in goal setting in the long and short term. Before you know it, you will be where you want to be.

Melanie: What does flying mean to you?

Ryan: Magic.

Over the weekend I flew several flights. One was with my cousin to look at whales. There are so many aircrafts to fly old, new, fast. I also enjoy making people’s days. I recently flew two people who had never been in a plane before. It is huge to do that. No matter what age from 3 to 50. I look into their faces and watch them realise they are in the air for the first time. It’s phenomenal.

This is why I want flying to be my career. It does not feel like a job. I love it and get paid to do it.

I live and breathe it. If this is something you want to do, you need the attitude to do it.

Melanie: What is one question nobody has asked you but you want to answer?

Ryan: Hmm … I was really surprised that experienced airline pilots and charter jet pilots had their jaw on the floor when they spoke with me. Amazed at what I did. I think it is because, they get it. The logistics, the planning involved. Flying in a small airplane. Generally, others may not get how much was really involved or how big the hurdles were, but these pilots got it.

This is not really a question but I would say, the biggest thing takes a lot of looking into to understand it. It’s not about flying around the world. It’s the message behind it. Are you going to do it? Yes or No. It all comes down to attitude.

I have met many young kids who want to fly around the world. I want to inspire people. If there is anything you can do, share it, pass it on. This is the biggest message.

Melanie: Thank you, Ryan, for your time sharing with the world your record breaking, world flying solo adventure.

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