Around the world in 44 days, avid aviator Travis Ludlow (UK) has become the youngest person to circumnavigate by aircraft, solo.
Travis was just 18 years 150 days old when he landed in Teuge, Netherlands, at the end of his 24,900 mile trip around Earth.
Piloting a small, single-engine aircraft alone, his journey was far from plain sailing. Travis battled extreme weather conditions, loneliness and fatigue whilst flying up to eight hours each day.
Travis took off on his record-breaking journey on 29 May 2021, after the global pandemic delayed his original start date of June 2020.
Starting and finishing his route in the Netherlands, Travis stopped in 12 other countries; Poland, Russia, USA, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, UK, Ireland, Spain, Morocco, France, and Belgium.
Travis had been preparing for this round-the-world journey his whole life.
His love of flying started when he was 4 years old. Travis never went to sleep without reading something from the stack of airplane magazines beside his bed. He also religiously watched every TV show about flying he could find, eventually being able to detail the cause of every accident on every episode of Air Crash Investigators.
Travis had his first gliding lesson at the age of 12 and became the UK's youngest glider pilot at 14.
Aged 16, Travis passed the Private Pilot Licence test, although he had to wait a few months before he was old enough to get his actual licence.
One of the biggest challenges Travis faced was the weather. Navigating thunderstorms and icy winds in such a tiny plane was a true test of Travis’ skill and nerve.
One such test was on 15 June, when flying at 14,000 ft – the minimum altitude he could fly to avoid hitting the ground – he encountered a mountain wave (rapidly descending air).
“I had the scariest moment so far last night” Travis revealed in a Facebook post the next day.
“I dropped like a stone, at over 5,000 ft per minute. I had warnings going off everywhere, with terrain alarms and then the stall alarm as I pulled up to correct the situation. I had pulled up, my nose point upwards and I was still dropping. I dropped over 2,100 ft in 5 seconds.”
Travis was plunged into another precarious situation on 26 June. “Yesterday was a game of dodgestorms, like dodgeball but at 7,000 ft with storm clouds coming at you instead of a ball.”
Loneliness also took a toll on Travis, however his spirits were kept high by his fans online and the generous hosts who accommodated him along the way.
The advantage of having to fly at a relatively low altitude meant that Travis got to witness some of the most remarkable views our planet has to offer.
The young pilot’s favourite moments included flying over the Canadian Rockies and the striking scenery of the Siberian wilderness.
During a flight from Kemerovo to Ulan-Ude, Russia, Travis flew over Lake Baikal, which is both the deepest lake and oldest lake in the world.
Travis also enjoyed his time in the USA. He stopped in Texas for a few days to get his second coronavirus jab and to enjoy the famed southern hospitality of his hosts.
He also met the previous record-holder, Mason Andrews, in Louisiana. Mason was 18 years and 163 days old when he completed his round-the-world journey in October 2018.
“It was great to spend some time with the record breaking and world record holder, Mason Andrews on this trip to Monroe, Louisiana and to go flying with him this morning. Mason has always shown the true spirit of aviation by being supportive and helping me with my own record flight,” Travis posted on his Facebook page, before adding, “Sorry I can’t stop for longer, I’ve got someone’s record to beat.”
Travis surpassed the minimum distance required to break the world record (24,540 miles), when he flew from Donegal, Ireland to Gibraltar on 9 July.
“Today I achieved two major milestones. One was landing in Gibraltar, a dream come true. The other was reaching 24,972 miles flown to date since leaving Teuge in The Netherlands. That’s 71 miles more than the circumference of the Earth at the equator.”
Travis broke Mason’s record with 163 days to spare.
Though his feet may be firmly back on the ground, Travis’ head is still in the clouds. He’s already planning his next around-the-world adventure and will surely be looking to break more records.
We can’t wait to see where Travis’ travels will take him next!