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.
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.