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Pioneering Pilots: Travis Ludlow - The Youngest Person To Fly Around The World

Teenage pilot Travis Ludlow broke a Guinness World Record this summer, becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the world solo.

Travis, from Buckinghamshire, UK, landed in the Netherlands on July 13, completing the staggering 24,900-mile journey in just 44 days.

At 18 years and 150 days old, he was 13 days younger than the previous record-holder, Mason Andrews from Louisiana. Travis undertook the incredible feat in a single-engine 2001 Cessna 172R.

We at USTN were inspired by Travis’ record-breaking achievement, and reached out to him to ask him a few questions about the trip. This interview is kicking off a new regular series entitled ‘Pioneering Pilots’, where we shine the spotlight on various different pilots who have made an impressive contribution to the field of aviation.


Thank you for taking the time to speak to us Travis, and congratulations on your incredible achievement. What inspired you to undertake this record-breaking trip?

Initially, it was a British woman called Polly Vacher, who flew around the world twice, [in] 2001 and 2004. She gave me the initial idea or dream of what I wanted to do after I read her book Wings Around the World… I think I was 9 years old. Then, in 2017, I read about the Australian Lachlan Smart’s successful circumnavigation at 18 years old and I was really determined after that. I was 14 years old.

Wow, so it was a goal from an early age. So when did you first start flying then, and what sort of planes have you flown so far?

I started gliding at 12 and flew solo on my 14th birthday. Then I started motorized flight at 15 and passed my PPL [Private Pilot License] at 16. I picked up my pilots license on the morning of my 17th birthday and flew to Phoenix, Arizona to do my Instrument rating, the very next day.

At 18 years old, Travis Ludlow became the youngest person to fly around the world solo. Photo: BBC

What was the most challenging aspect of the round the world trip? Were there times when you were fearful you might not be able to complete it?

The most challenging was before take-off, I had a real tough time with my original, planned aircraft and then, of course, we had a worldwide pandemic. I never felt I wouldn’t make it, once I’d taken off… except maybe when I nearly ran out of fuel on my way from Moscow to Yekaterinburg, a 7hr 46min flight. I landed with an empty left tank and a few puddles in the right tank. I did think I wouldn’t make it before taking off, due to the plane issues and delays caused by the pandemic.

Not only were you younger than the previous record holder but you were also faster around the world. To what extent did breaking the record motivate you, or was the flying the main appeal?

Initially it was the record but then it was the flying… then it became all about the record at the end because it was so close. I was due to take off 363 days before but Covid stopped me. When I eventually did take off, I only had 55 days to beat the record. No time to enjoy myself.

Which was your favorite place you flew to or over on your trip, and why?

Siberia was amazing, so much country, so few people. Alaska and Greenland were beautiful as were the Rockies and the Grand Canyon. Flying over the Pyrenees at Sunset was also an awesome sight.

Sounds breathtaking. Finally, what are your future ambitions as a pilot?

That’s the question I am not sure how to answer right now. I am looking for opportunities and considering university next year. I’d like to do that in conjunction with more flight training. I’d like to work in media, doing stories of my flights and the places I visit.

We have little doubt Travis will be successful in all of these future endeavors, it seems like the sky is the limit for this flying prodigy. We hoped you enjoyed finding out about Travis’ trip as much as we did, and keep an eye out for the next Pioneering Pilots interview.

Photo: BBC News

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