Around the world in 11 days
Scott Kasprowicz broke the world record for circumnavigating the globe by helicopter, 30 years after he graduated from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
He and co-pilot Steve Sheik made the trip, which began Aug. 7, in 11 days, seven hours and two minutes. Their time broke the previous international record, set in 1997, by six days. They flew through Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, Russia and Alaska, finishing their mission at La Guardia Airport in New York.
Kasprowicz envisioned the mission three and a half years ago, when he ordered the AgustaWestland 109 Grand helicopter from an Italian factory.
‘I started looking at its capabilities in greater detail,’ Kasprowicz said. ‘And I realized that it was a wonderful platform for attempting some world records.’
He brought up the idea to Sheik two years ago, after the two had been flying together for more than eight years.
‘He was very excited about it,’ Kasprowicz said. ‘It’s quite an honor and a thrill for any aviator to have an opportunity of this nature.’
In preparation for the global trek, the team broke the international record for flying from New York to Los Angeles in February – by more than six hours, crossing the country in less than a day.
But the worldwide trip proved to be much more difficult, Kasprowicz said. He lost 15 pounds in 11 days, mostly from dehydration. The team had to stop more than 70 times to fuel the helicopter, with a typical stop lasting 10 to 30 minutes. An ‘overnight’ stop was two hours. Sheik was sick for the last few days of the flight because of water he drank in Russia.
Despite the obstacles of spending almost 20 hours a day in the helicopter, Kasprowicz said he wouldn’t change anything about the trip.
‘I had a fast helicopter and time on my hands,’ Kasprowicz said. ‘And I liked the challenge.’
On how he got into aviation: It was my family history. I come from a family of aviators, both military and commercial pilots. I have flown since my teens. And I love to fly, very simply.
On what ESF was like 30 years ago: It was a little microcosm in the midst of a university. We had the unique benefit of having a small, very cohesive group within our own little realm of Syracuse University. It was a great place.
On how ESF prepared him for his career: Junior and senior year at ESF, most of the work that was done was on a team basis. I think preparation and the ability to reason was something we did, and that’s very important in planning a mission like this.
On the most interesting place to fly over: Flying through Siberia perhaps was the most significant part of the trip for me. I’ve flown everything on this trip before, except through Russia. There’s no other way to describe it – it’s just vast. It goes on seemingly forever, and it puts other large landmasses like Alaska in a different perspective.
On seeing the world from a helicopter: It’s interesting, because it gives you a very unique perspective. The northern latitudes, which we covered in this mission, are remarkably unpopulated in comparison to the world in which we live. You could fly for many, many hours, and there’s just no sign of human habitation on Earth.
On another world record attempt: It was a great mission, and I would consider trying other records. I don’t have anything else lined up yet, but I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to jump back in a helicopter.
On what his family and friends thought: I guess it’s kind of keeping with the way I’ve lived. Taking a chance is kind of a characteristic I have. So I don’t think it came as a great surprise, and they were very encouraging.
On what he ate while in flight: We had a couple meals outside the helicopter. Mostly we ate granola bars, nuts, prepackaged fruit drinks and chocolate milk. The kind of things you’d normally take backpacking.
On the most memorable moment: Touching down at La Guardia, having broken the record. Our fatigue at that point – it was just very difficult to stay awake. We were running on adrenaline. It was a beautiful day, and there was a crowd to greet us at 10 in the morning. Our goal was to do it in 13 days. We did it in 11.
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