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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedSpirit of adventure evident in round-the-world flight
By Rose Dorcey, EAA AirVenture Today

Standing on the airplane (left and right) Mike Blyth and James Pitman, the around-the-world fliers from Johannesburg, South Africa, arrived on schedule in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, July 28, as part of a six-day visit to AirVenture. Flying a Rotax 912S-powered D6 Sling, a new light-sport aircraft, the adventurers flew more than 17,000 kilometers (about 10,540 miles) and will continue their journey west to circumnavigate the globe.

Photo by Tim Gaffney
A map on each wing shows the route Mike Blythe and James Pitman are taking in their round-the-world trip.
Photo by Tim Gaffney
James Pitman, left, and Mike Blyth designed and built this Rotax 912-powered D6 Sling airplane just before flying it from Johannesburg South Africa to Oshkosh. They arrived Tuesday evening. They plan to continue flying west to circle the world before returning to South Africa and offering the airplane for sale.

July 29, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin  - Just 40 hours on a new airplane design and it's ready to fly around the world. Not every pilot would agree, but for Mike Blyth, 55, and James Pitman, 40, of Johannesburg, South Africa, that's just part of the adventure.

The pair left Johannesburg en route to Oshkosh in the Sling, a light-sport aircraft they designed and modified for the trip. After three-and-a-half years of modifying and testing their first prototype through their company, the Airplane Factory, Blyth and Pitman built number two in two months. "Production prototype number two" has higher capacity fuel tanks (118.5 gallons total) and beefed-up landing gear. With 92 hours of flying time to Oshkosh covering about 10,540 miles, the aircraft now has 132 hours.

How is it performing?

"It has held up brilliantly; performed immaculately," Pitman said. "The Rotax 912S idles a little rough, which is a bit nerve-wracking when taking off to fly across the ocean, but it's perfect when we open it up."

Blyth and Pitman, who say the flight is "number one about the spirit of adventure," flew much of the flight to Oshkosh during the nighttime hours, avoiding takeoffs and landings in the dark at unknown airfields since the darkness is disconcerting. "We focus on the instruments...they are our life," Pitman said.

In Oshkosh, they're not quite half-way around the world; that milestone will come when they reach Los Angeles, California. From L.A., they'll be off for Hawaii; it's a leg they both admit has them feeling a bit nervous.

"There's nothing between L.A. and Hawaii," Blyth said. They are already looking at forecast winds for that leg and watching their fuel burn, which is about 5 gallons per hour. "We can't make it without a tailwind from L.A.," Pitman said.

Still, they appear confident, and the three GPS units, a TRIO autopilot, two MGL Avionics' Voyager EFIS units, a life raft, life jackets, drinking water, and personal locator beacons add a sense of security about reaching their destination. They carry minimum supplies; their toolkit consists of a screwdriver and wrench for minor adjustments. Two changes of clothes and a blanket and pillow per pilot (it gets cold at night at altitude) about covers the baggage. This flight is not about comfort, remember, it's about the adventure, and it appears they're succeeding at that.

The large South African contingent already on the grounds, along with Facebook fans and website followers, was there to greet their arrival, providing a warm welcome and a chance to unwind among friends.

"We're having fun," Blyth said. "It's hard work, but it's been an amazing, amazing experience." The approximate one-month flight includes six days at AirVenture. "We love airplanes," Pitman said. "It's a natural to come to Oshkosh."




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