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65-Day Flight in an Airplane

Matt and Chet Pipkin
Matt Pipkin, right, and his father, Chet, are planning to fly in an airplane for 65 consecutive days.

Desert refueling
Robert Timm and John Cook remained aloft in a Cessna 172 from December 4, 1958, to February 7, 1959 - the current world record.

Hacienda 172
Today the Hacienda 172 hangs in the Las Vegas McCarran Airport terminal.

April 7, 2011 — Imagine flying in your airplane once a day for 65 straight days. Now visualize one continuous flight, remaining aloft for 65 days - 1,558 consecutive hours. Refueling will be done air-to-air, oil changes on the fly, while two occupants eat, sleep - and perform other necessary functions – in a small plane for more than two months. That’s what Matt Pipkin and his father, Chet, are hoping to do sometime in the summer of 2012.

If successful the father-and-son pilots from Idaho would break the longstanding Guinness world flight endurance record of 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, and 5 minutes, set by Robert Timm and John Cook, who remained aloft from December 4, 1958, to February 7, 1959, in a Cessna 172. They were doing a promotional stunt for the Las Vegas Hacienda Hotel and Casino and when they finally landed they had flown a distance equal to six times around the world.

That flight gained worldwide attention and drew a crowd of spectators and media. Today the airplane hangs from the ceiling at Las Vegas McCarran Airport.

The Pipkins are trying to generate that kind of attention by leveraging social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, viral videos, etc. – all to raise awareness for victims of child sexual abuse. They call their effort Commit65.

“One in five children suffers some type of abuse, but nine out of 10 don’t tell anyone about it,” said Matt, himself a victim who was abused multiple times before age 5 by a family friend. “And the abuse can affect not only the immediate victim but entire families as well.”

Chet Pipkin is an ATP who flies 757s and 767s for a living. He also has aerial refueling experience from his days as an F-4 Phantom pilot with the Air National Guard. Matt earned his private pilot certificate in 2009, and the two will split pilot-in-command duties.

Matt and Chet are currently looking to acquire a suitable airplane – along the lines of a Cessna 172, Matt said. “Priority No. 1 is a good aircraft,” he stressed, adding they hope to have one by the beginning of June and bring it to AirVenture Oshkosh this summer. If they do, it will be parked near the West Ramp.

Modifications will be required to facilitate air-to-air refueling, Matt explained. (The Hacienda flight 50 years ago used ground-to-air refueling.) They’ll also need to design and install special plumbing on the engine for in-flight oil changes, which means they would have to submit plans for modifications to the FAA for approval and certificate the airplane in the experimental category.

They’re figuring 12 to 14 hours between fill-ups. “We will refuel twice per day and already have a crew of seasoned pilots volunteering to do that,” Matt said. “We'll change oil most likely every 50-100 hours, depending on what the experts suggest is best.

“We’ll also have the ever-so-slight advantage of new technology to make it just a tad bit more bearable,” Matt added.

The flight 50 years ago stayed in the area of the Vegas airport, swooping down over a desert highway to be refueled from a truck and to get food and water from a chase car – a 1956 Ford Thunderbird. Commit65 has plans to pick up supplies like a banner towing aircraft would retrieve a new banner. “As long as we can ensure it won't jar the airframe,” Matt said.

Unlike the current record holders, the Pipkins intend to fly Commit65 all over the country, originating in Boise, Idaho. “We plan to divide the country into six parts,” he said. Weather of course would be a critical concern to flight planning. “We also could not fly over densely populated areas. Most of the flights would be straight and level.”

The Pipkins are looking for sponsorship and already have a number of companies stepping up to supply products and parts, Matt said. A lot will also depend on what type of plane they obtain.

You can learn more about Commit65 at its website, as well as through Facebook and Twitter.

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