Sunshine Coast teen lands to hero’s welcome with world record in bag

Sunshine Coast teenager Lachlan Smart created history this morning when he touched down at Maroochydore Airport, becoming the youngest person to ever complete a solo circumnavigation of the world in a single engine aircraft.

Smart departed the same airport on the Sunshine Coast on July 4 this year and stopped in 24 locations and 15 countries along the seven-week odyssey that will see him achieve a Guinness World Record.

The previous benchmark was set by American Matt Guthmiller who completed his circumnavigation when he was 19 years, 7 months and 15 days. Smart is 18 years, 7 months and 21 days today.

Smart’s last leg – from Bundaberg to the airport where he has done much of his flight training since the dream of taking on the record breaking flight began two and a half years ago – was punctuated by a crowd of hundreds that included family, friends, official partners, government officials and the adoring public who have supported his journey.

“What a welcome,” Smart said on touching down.

“The support I have received from family, friends, the local Sunshine Coast council and community and people around the world that I have never even met has been incredible from the first moment we spoke about this journey.

“To actually be here, having flown around the world, for over 24,000 nautical miles (45,000km) is just a great relief.

“I can’t wait to spend some time with my family and sleep in my own bed.”

While setting the Guinness World Record was key to Smart’s journey, there has always been an ulterior, more honourable reason for taking on the gargantuan task of flying around the world alone.

“I have always, for as long as I can remember, wanted to inspire others, particularly young people, to chase their dreams,” Smart said.

“Until a few years ago I wasn’t sure how, or what, I was going to do to make that happen and then the idea of this flight came along and my team and I have dedicated almost every waking moment to it for those two and a half years.

“Age is just a number, and really, if we want to achieve something, in most situations it shouldn’t be a barrier to success.

“This trip wasn’t just the flight itself, it was creating a dream, building a team, raising funds and spreading the message of youth achievement to people all around the world. It has been an amazing journey and something I am very proud of.”

As part of the homecoming celebrations the teenager was presented the Keys to the City by Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson and a handwritten letter from Bert Hinkler, passed on by a relative of the aviation legend.

Pics: Barry Alsop / Eyes Wide Open Images / Sunshine Coast Council
Pics: Barry Alsop / Eyes Wide Open Images / Sunshine Coast Council

Ryan Campbell, the Australian who set the same world record and was the first teenager to achieve the massive feat when he completed Teen World Flight in 2013, was also on hand to congratulate Smart. Campbell had been a massive support network for Smart over the two months of the record bid.

Smart plans to debrief his flight and get some well-earned rest before announcing the next stage of his plans to inspire and help young people achieve more than they thought possible.

Pilot’s Blog: The finish line is in sight

My last week and a half before reaching familiar Aussie soil was not without a hitch. From Egypt I encountered troubles with air traffic control, ground staff and airports including delays due to fuel, and even having an airport shut down due to a departing president!

They were all challenges (mostly) expected to be encountered on a round the world flight, however they were not all expected within a week.

As with all challenges I have encountered on this flight it came down to preparation, and the willingness to put the hard work in to push through the obstacle, some patience and where needed, persistence.

From Egypt to Oman I encountered some intense turbulence that I had throughout the whole trip. It lasted for 5 and a half hours, and compounded a day of frustrations after I had already been delayed by 2 hours after waiting for fuel in Egypt. After landing in Muscat I was again playing the waiting game, this time it was for 45 minutes to be picked up to go to my accommodation.

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Even when you’re waiting for fuel, there is still time to send a Snapchat to friends!

Now, I don’t want to be seen as a whinger, it was only 45 minutes, but…it was in 36-degree heat, and that was at 9pm at night. After earlier delays and spending a day in the plane, this was just icing on the cake of a frustrating day. I was officially hammered when I arrived at my hotel. Spent.

After a day in Oman, and meeting with some local media, I was fresh for my next flight which flight took me across the ocean and southern India into Sri Lanka. There were a few issues with payment encountered, but nothing I couldn’t fix. But Sri Lanka was important for another reason. It was my final destination before I began a marathon 3 days of flying back to Australia. Ahead of me were a few back-to-back legs as I skipped my way back home.

It began with a flight from Sri Lanka to Malaysia, which was pleasingly shorter than expected with some great tailwinds. I had an overnight stay there with some family friends, which really did make the stop enjoyable.

Before I could really make much sense of the country I was off again the next day, dodging a storm over the top of Kuala Lumpur as I exited and headed for Jakarta, Indonesia – with a few communication challenges along the way.

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Dodging storms on the way out of Malaysia

Another quick turnaround meant that Indonesia was a short lived stop, but a little longer than I had anticipated. As had seemingly become the norm in the second part of the trip, there were delays upon departure, but this time because the Indonesian President was flying out of the same airport as me, at the same time.

As you can guess, Lachie Smart and his little Cirrus weren’t first priority at this point in time.

After fitting in line behind the President I quickly reached the coastline of Indonesia and began my last overwater stretch of the flight.

Now the boundary between Indonesian and Australian airspace is a waypoint known as SAPDA, and when I finally reached it I was greeted with the best I could possibly have heard after a difficult morning:

“G’Day”

I was home.

Landing in Broome was a relief and a feeling of excitement. Once landed I taxied underneath an arch of water from the fire trucks at Broome airport and made my way to parking where I was welcomed by Australian customs, media and some surprise guests – my grandparents Lynne and Phil.

Broome was full of surprises, and my time there was boosted when I was taken for a scenic flight over the Kimberley’s and Horizontal Waterfalls of WA. A special shoutout needs to go to King Leopold Air for taking me, and also a massive thank you to them for looking after the maintenance of my Cirrus.

As I departed from Broome I headed to my second Australian stop, Darwin.

While in Darwin I went for a swim in a ‘cage of death’ with a crocodile, and caught up with some old family friends, as well as getting a chance to refuel and prepare the aeroplane for the next flight down to Longreach – back to mighty Queensland!

I may be biased in my favourite Australian state…maybe.

Getting down to Longreach proved a little more interesting than expected with a few weather cells forming around where I was flying, however nothing near as bad as I had experienced elsewhere on the journey!

If you haven’t been to Longreach before, you should treat yourself and head there, primarily because the Qantas Heritage Museum is there, and not only did I get to check it out, I also was asked to give a talk and do a Q&A session with a few interested followers. For all those that came along, thanks for being there!

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Arriving in Broome, my first stop in Australia! The Sunshine Coast will be my proper ‘home’ stop though

Then as soon as I arrived (seemingly), I was off to Bundaberg. The flight out was smooth and relaxing, and fantastic tailwinds gave me a short flight (and my personal record ground speed in the Cirrus) to my last stop before home.

As I write this I am less than a 45-minute flight away from completing what has been a dream of mine for almost 3 years, and what do I feel? I feel so many emotions that I don’t think I could write them all down in this blog.

Excitement to be home, relief to have achieved this huge goal, trepidation for what comes next. All things that are going through my mind but in all honesty… I’m just looking forward to being home.

Lachie to break record in Maroochydore on Saturday

Sunshine Coast teenager Lachlan Smart is standing on the edge of a history making moment, and on Saturday he will go from attempting a Guinness World Record to owning one.

On July 4, 2016 Smart departed from the Sunshine Coast Airport at 4.15am AEST with the hope of becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the world by aircraft, solo. It was a trip that had been two and half years in the making, and on Saturday the 18-year-old will not only officially own that record…he will smash it.

The previous benchmark was set by American Matt Guthmiller who comple​ted his circumnavigation when he was 19 years, 7 months and 15 days. Smart will be 18 years, 7 months and 21 days when he touches down on August 27.

While the record is key to this journey, it was never the motivation for Smart to pack his life into a single engine plane to fly across vast masses of water, stopping in 24 locations and 15 countries along the way.

The real dream was for Smart to inspire others, particularly youth, to chase their dreams.

His logic was simple: If a teenager from the modest suburb of Nambour on the Sunshine Coast could rally a team to support him, raise funds and spread his message of youth achievement to people all around the world, there was nothing that could stop others from achieving high goals.

Come Saturday, Smart will depart Bundaberg early in the early morning and is expected to touch down on the Sunshine Coast at 7.30am AEST.

He will be greeted by a public welcome party that will include friends, family, official partners, government officials and importantly the people that have followed his trip for more than seven weeks, regardless of whether they personally know him or not.

Upon his arrival there will be a formal welcome home ceremony, but not before the one person who has counted down each day since his departure, greets him, mother Vanessa Sprague.

In a fitting finale to his world flight, Vanessa will also be the honorary marshal, directing Lachie into his final parking spot before the pair is reunited for the first time in more than 50 days.

Public are invited to attend from 6.45am AEST.

Lachie Smart’s Homecoming is a public event; with those wishing to attend encouraged to do so. It will be a chance to see the plane, and meet Lachie after his trip. Key details are below:

DETAILS:

ARRIVE: 6.45am AEST

LACHIE ARRIVES: 7.30am AEST

 Special event parking will be in place. Follow signs marked ‘Special Event Parking’ which will take you to a special event zone – free of charge until 10am AEST.
Parking in any of the other airport car parks will be charged at normal rates
All guests will be required to go through security screening, please bring only essential items.
People with a disabled sticker will be able to park in the short-term car park FREE OF CHARGE. Contact on-site SES volunteers or Wings Around the World team members for a pass.

Teen attempting world record sets sight on Bundaberg via Hinkler route

When Sunshine Coast Teenager Lachlan Smart climbs aboard his Cirrus SR-22 to depart Darwin for Longreach on tomorrow, he will navigate along one of Australia’s most historic flight routes.

At 18-years of age Smart has made 21 stops around the world since departing the Sunshine Coast in July 4 in his attempt to break the record as the youngest person to fly around the world solo, in a single engine aircraft.

The 22nd leg of his world record attempt flight will see Smart fly from Darwin to Longreach and then onto Bundaberg on his 23rd leg, following the route of Australian aviation pioneer Herbert John Louis (Bert) Hinkler, who first flew solo from Great Britain to Australia in 1928.

Smart will land in Bundaberg on Thursday August 25 at 12.15pm AEST.

Hinkler, like Smart, made his journey in a single engine aircraft, his trip taking 15 and a half days by the time he landed in Darwin. Hinkler then made his way to his hometown of Bundaberg, via Longreach along the same course Smart will take in the coming days.

While time may have moved forward and technology advanced, there are distinct similarities between Smart and Hinkler’s respective journeys.

When Hinkler completed his trip he reduced the England to Australia record from 28 to 15 and a half days. Similarly Smart will slash the record of being the youngest person to fly around the world solo, in a single engine aircraft significantly.

American Matt Guthmiller set the previous mark in 2014 when he completed his world flight at the age of 19-years, 7 months and 15 days. When Smart lands on the Sunshine coast on August 27, he will be 18-years, 7 months and 21 days.

But that’s not where the similarities end. Smart’s motivation for this gigantic task of circumnavigating the globe isn’t just a record. He is out to prove that age is usually just a number, that shouldn’t limit aspiration.

Hinkler exemplified this same mentality that Smart is attempting to promote more than a century ago. As a young man he was fascinated with flight, and by 1911 and 1912 had built man-carrying gliders and flown them at Mon Repos Beach near Bundaberg.

His greatest achievement was his 1928 flight across the world, making good on the dream he had as a young man, when he was nothing more than an aspiring aviator.

Both Smart and Hinkler pursued goals from nothing more than an idea; a love of flying and a dream to show people what could be achieved.

Hinkler completed his goal, and now Smart is just days away from realising his.

Since his departure Smart has travelled to Fiji, Pago Pago, Kiribati, Hawaii, through five US states, Canada, The Azores, Great Britain, France, Greece, Egypt, Oman, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Broome and will depart from Darwin to Longreach tomorrow (Tuesday August 23) flying from Longreach to Bundaberg on Thursday August 25.

Smart will arrive in Bundaberg on Thursday August 25 at 12.15pm AEST.

He will be giving a presentation of his world record breaking flight at the Hinkler Hall of Aviation on Friday August 26 at 3.30pm.

For those hoping to see Smart, you are welcome to watch him landing in Bundaberg. However all opportunities to meet and speak with him will be at the Hinkler Hall of Aviation on Friday August 26.

Threads to impress, Sisley know best

In any gruelling venture, you need to be properly prepared and there are few things that are more unrelenting than long distance aviation, particularly in light aircraft. There is no room for mistakes, second chances are rare.

So, everything has to be right, and that includes what pilots wear.

In my case, I had to have a flight suit which was comfortable, warm but not stifling in potentially hot climates, also cool but not cold in cold climates. But it also had to be comfortable and have the design flexibility to provide what I needed.

The team at Sisley Clothing were a huge help to me in fulfilling these requirements for my suits, everything from the choice of fabric, the fitting to my body shape, the individual design features for badge identification purposes, pockets for specific items I may need in different circumstances and facilities to carry items I alone might need, like a personal locator beacon.

These all had to be designed into a piece of clothing which allowed free movement. Storage pockets in the suit also had to be situated in places which did not conflict with pieces of the aircraft cockpit.

Sisley Clothing were not only able to provide this individual product in a timely way, but were also able to help with specialist advice and support.

On the longer flights, from Hawaii to California, a 14-hour journey, the last thing needed was to be uncomfortable, in a single seat with little room to even stretch. There is no room to stand up and walk around, so comfort is paramount and I have to say that my flight suit was brilliant.

By no means was that journey comfortable, but that was because I was 14 hours sitting in one place. The comfort of the flight suit actually eased the discomfort!

So, a big thank you to all the team at Sisley Clothing, the knowledge, experience and dedication you put into your products shows and deserves to be recognised.

Broome the first stop for homeward bound Aussie teen on world record flight

Queensland teenager Lachlan Smart has visited 18 countries in the past 45 days, and he’s visited them all under his own steam on what is Guinness World Record breaking solo flight around the world.

Two and a half years ago a just turned 16-year-old Smart, who hails from a modest Australian family in the sleepy suburb of Nambour on the Sunshine Coast, was inspired to by fellow Aussie Ryan Campbell, who a handful of months earlier had become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, in a single engine aircraft.

Now 18, Smart is on the verge of achieving just that.

Three-years ago Campbell returned to Australia on September 7, 2013 as the youngest person to fly around the world at 19-years and 237 days old. Less than a year later American Matt Guthmiller again lowered the record, this time to 19-years, 7 months and 15 days.

Now Smart is set to take the record into new territory when he arrives back on the Sunshine Coast on August 27. He will lower the mark to 18-years, 7 months and 21 days, completing the trip when he is almost a full year younger than Guthmiller, in the process bringing the record back to Australia.

The motivation for taking on this gigantic task is for Smart to prove that age is usually just a number and shouldn’t limit aspiration. He created Wings Around the World from nothing but an idea; a love of flying and a dream to show people that anything can be achieved.

However before he returns to the sunshine state, the first stop back on Australian soil for the teenager will be Broome, Western Australia following an eight-hour flight from Jakarta, Indonesia.

It will be a welcome return to a familiar setting for the young man who in the past six weeks has hopped from country to country, working with different national aviation authorities on a daily basis.

So far he has visited Fiji, American Samoa, Kiribati, Hawaii, mainland USA, Canada, The Azores, Great Britain, France, Greece, Egypt, Oman, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and today will land in Indonesia prior to his Australian return.

From Broom Smart will travel east to Darwin, then Longreach, Bundaberg and finally the Sunshine Coast by August 27.

World record aside, the only other certainty is that his mother is the most excited person in the world to welcome home her son.

Pilot’s Blog: #Lexit, Europe & into the Middle East!

During my time in Europe I was able to experience a wide variety of cultures, foods and landscapes, from the picturesque beaches of Cannes to the beautiful sunny weather patterns of British Summer (that was a joke, and is the UK even still counted as Europe? …I made a #Lexit before the arguments started).

But overall I got to enjoy some relatively (and yes, only relatively) easy, smooth and beautiful flying. Let’s start in England.

I had a good 11 day layover in England during which I got to catch up on some sleep, hang out with my awesome family that live there, and get the Spirit of the Sunshine Coast serviced, it’s just like a car and needs a tune up every now and then.

It was really nice to step back into some kind of reality being in a house and having my feet in the ground for more than 3 days, I enjoyed that almost as much as the sightseeing and relaxing I got to do!

On top of all that I had a visitor from home, dad! The powerfully built man of 47 years (those who read the Weekend Australian Magazine article will know what I am talking about – you can re-read HERE), came over too. What a break for me!

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Click the image and check out the article in the Weekend Australian Magazine!

Following the WATW siesta I jumped across the channel and into the land of excellent baguettes, pastries and cheese but not before fulfilling a dream of mine – to fly along the White Cliffs of Dover.

It was surreal experiencing the same views from the sky that my relatives did, also as pilots, so many years ago during both world wars, and to see it on a journey such as this was incredible.

Next stop: France.

The views on the way down were nice when I could see through the cloud layer below me and the approach into Cannes was breathtaking. Below me lay beautiful blue water and lots of boats with values ranging right up to 20 Cirrus’ (don’t worry Albert, you’re priceless).


But my stay in Cannes was off to a rocky start after making my way dopily to the wrong hotel


But my stay in Cannes was off to a rocky start after making my way dopily to the wrong hotel, at least I got the direction wrong on the ground and not in the sky! After correcting my course and finding my hotel I was set for some exploring in the hours of the day that remained.

I caught a taxi into town and started walking. I really enjoy going for a walk when I can as the Cirrus doesn’t allow much room for going for a stroll and it really makes you enjoy the ground a lot more, especially when you can’t straighten your legs for up to 14 hours in the plane.

During my expedition through the city of Cannes I heard some party music coming from the beach so I went to have a look, however a fence blocked the source of the music. So I went around to a different side and couldn’t see anything once again so decided I would ask someone.

As it turns out, the lady I asked happened to be the manager for one of the organising companies and I got free tickets and taken to the secret squirrel entrance skipping the hour of queues!

Lachie was having a winner winner chicken dinner of a day.

So entering this beach party was pretty exciting and it turns out the DJ who was on the stage was DJ Snake (don’t worry mum I’ll explain who he is later – but if you’re feeling adventurous, click the video below!)

I really didn’t have a clue what was going on as my French is about as well developed as my Portuguese, luckily I speak the global language of dance. The rest of the stay in France included preparing for the next flight and catching up with a fellow pilot for some dinner and a very cool fireworks show off the beach!

Next stop was Crete, Greece, and while the flight wasn’t exactly one of the easiest with interesting weather and difficult air traffic controllers, I still enjoyed the scenery and landing on the beautiful island of Crete. A great hotel and views that make you drool all over your wonderful green salad with basil and avocado dressing, the stop was one I will certainly never forget!

But it didn’t feel like long until I was soaring off that majestic island, concluding my European segment and with a flight plan set for the Middle East. Destination next, Egypt.

I must say, arriving here was a bit of a relief after fighting ATC once again for a long period of the trip.

The difficulties began with bad radio reception over the water between Crete and Egypt, followed by requests for me to do things that aren’t possible with my aircraft and there were a few surprise flight condition changes.

By the time I put the aircraft down onto the runway I was worn out mentally and looking forward to my hotel room. I packed up, tucked Albert into bed and made my way through immigration and customs to a waiting van that took me to the hotel.

Bring on the Middle East and Asia, I’m exciting to explore a new part of the world.

Wise words from Australia’s fastest pilot aid Smart in moments of doubt

In just 15 days teenager Lachlan Smart will land on the Sunshine Coast with the title of the youngest person to fly around the world solo, a feat made easier after advice from Australia’s Red Bull Air Race pilot Matt Hall.

Departing for his global Odyssey five and a half weeks ago Smart has come across plenty of challenges. He’s crossed the Pacific Ocean, altered his route to avoid poor weather systems in the Atlantic and knows there are more tough times to come as he crosses into the Middle East today, before navigating Asia on his quest to return home,

Ever the image of confidence and preparedness, 18-year-old Smart is wise beyond his years, but like the rest of us he has moments of doubt. However unlike many, those times are fleeting and he attributes his strong mental fortitude to advice from fellow pilot Hall.

“It’s natural to have doubts, but for me it is very much about addressing them and putting them behind me, rather than focusing on them,” a resolute Smart said.

“If you spend too long thinking about what could go wrong, you’re not spending enough time focusing on what could go right. That’s a tip Matt Hall gave me.

“Over the past two and a half years I have put in place safety plans and I am sticking to those, they are thorough and backed up.”

With his next leg scheduled to take the Sunny Coast teenager from Crete, Greece to Hurghada, Egypt before a hop into Oman and then Sri Lanka, he says his biggest challenges over the next few days will be communication.

“Crossing the oceanic regions around India and Sri Lanka will be hard, probably the biggest challenge on the horizon, especially with communication,” he said.

“The different accents will add a layer of difficulty, so I need to be sure that I understand each communication clearly and follow instruction to the best of my ability.”

“It will be hard, but I am confident that it is simply another small challenge that will need to be overcome.”

Since his departure Smart has made 15 stops, beginning in Fiji and the Pacific islands of Pago Pago and Kiribati before landing in Hawaii. From there it was a marathon crossing to the west coast of the USA, before flying north to Canada.

From Canada it was across the Atlantic Ocean to the Azores islands, onto the UK, then Europe and now is in Egypt.

There are a further eight destinations scheduled before Smart touches back down on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday, August 27.

Pilots Blog: Crossing the Atlantic, I didn’t need a jumper (Pt.II)

READ PART I: Pilots Blog: Atlantic Crossing – Will I need a jumper? HERE

Somehow in the last 8 hours my flight plan from Azores to England had gone from a straight flight of around 9.5 hours to a 14-hour European sojourn through Portugal, Spain, France and England.

So being the stubborn fellow that I am, I began ringing around the world to find out who had meddled with my flight plan and why it had been changed. After talking to Brussels, who manage all of Europe’s airspace, I found that they required a waypoint every 50 nautical miles or less… It was a 1500nm flight!

So after trying to argue with a very unhappy Belgian man I decided that my inner donkey would come out and I began plotting 30 latitude and longitude waypoints for the track that I wanted (the shortest one). By now it is 11pm and I was very tired but had made a complete flight plan and was ready to submit it.

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The view from my room in Azores had been nothing short of spectacular

So I talked to my Belgian friend who is now bent on not accepting my flight plan. My next step was to find a Portuguese authority to submit my plan on my behalf. I haven’t practised my Portuguese for a while, so this conversation was difficult as his English was also very broken, however after half an hour of latitude and longitudes and then 12 minutes of trying to give him my email address, we got there in the end. 1am, 12.5 hours since the original plan had been submitted, it was time for bed.

Sleeping with my fingers crossed there were no problems I gave into tiredness and put aside that marathon my night had become to get the flight plan submitted.

The next morning I was up and to the airport by 6:20am for a 7am departure. Checking my emails I found that my plan had been accepted, even on the track that I wanted! I was on a high until that came crashing down when I read my supposed departure time: 1am.

So rapid phone calls to two wrong numbers before getting through to my Portuguese friend again, I had a quick discussion about the meaning of 7am. Eventually he read through and found that for some reason he had put a 1am departure with a 6 hour delay at Santa Maria prior to take off. Of course that would be the logical thing to do? *sigh*.

All was back on track and after jumping in the Spirit of the Sunshine Coast I brought the aircraft to life and we roared off toward the motherland: England!

You may fly yourself half way around the world, but nothing beats meeting up with dad for an English pub roast! #WATW

A photo posted by Wings Around the World (@watw2016) on

I was looking forward to this trip as it would bring to a close the first half of the journey and I would also get to see some familiar faces again. After getting a new clearance before take off I ended up throwing away the first 10 waypoints and tracking through only two new waypoints prior to entering England’s airspace where I resumed my original flight plan along the million waypoints, which I very quickly established with ATC that I would not be reporting at every single one.

Around 3 hours out from England I began getting diverted around over France and moved to accommodate for other traffic flowing around Europe. Eventually I made it to Biggin Hill and completed what felt like a mammoth challenge to cross the Atlantic.

Now having past both the halfway points for distance and time, I am on the home run. I have really enjoyed my time in England with family unwinding, but I am now feeling rested and ready to continue this world record attempt. Look out Europe here I come.