|Matt Pipkin and his father, Chet, are planning to fly in an airplane for 65 consecutive days to break a world record and raise awareness of childhood sexual assault. PHOTO BY MARIANO ROSALES
It’s been done before so Matt Pipkin and his father, Chet, know that it’s possible. But they also know it’s not going to be easy.
Next summer, the Pipkins plan to take off in a Cessna 172 and stay flying for 65 or more continuous days. That’s 1,560 hours or more in the air.
The father-and-son duo from Idaho plan to do the flight that, if successful, will land them in the Guinness World Records. The aim is to create awareness for Commit65, a nonprofit organization Matt founded in 2010 to educate people about childhood sexual assault.
“We really hope to de-stigmatize childhood sexual assault,” said Matt, who himself was sexually abused by a family friend when he was 5. “One in five children suffers some type of abuse, but nine out of 10 don’t tell anyone about it.”
They acknowledge that 65 days is a long time. Chet, however, said he is looking forward to spending time with his son. “I’m more realistic,” Matt added with a laugh. “I know we’ll get sick of each other.”
Matt said he earned his private pilot certificate within three months after getting the idea for the endurance flight in 2009. He also earned his father’s support. Chet flies 757s and 767s for American Airlines and also has aerial refueling experience as a former F-4 Phantom pilot with the Air National Guard.
Since then, Matt has been busy raising funds, finding sponsors, and generating awareness of the flight and Commit65.
Two months ago, they found a plane for their effort—a 1958 Cessna 172. Coincidentally, it’s the same year and model plane Robert Timm and John Cook used to remain aloft for 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes and 5 minutes—December 4, 1958-February 7, 1959. The current record flight was a promotional stunt for the Las Vegas Hacienda Hotel and Casino.
Chet said they would make similar modifications to the plane as the record holders did decades ago: add a belly tank for additional fuel, a special door for refueling in the air, and a re-routed oil system so they can do oil changes in flight.
Everything but the left seat will be taken out, making room for sleeping and exercising, Matt said. And getting a place of its own will be a small portable toilet.
The flight 50 years ago stayed near Vegas, swooping down over a highway to be refueled from a truck and to get food and water from a chase car. However, the Pipkins plan to fly all over the United States and pick up supplies and food like a banner-towing aircraft would retrieve
a new banner. Starting in Boise, Idaho, they will divide the country into six zones, flying over each of the 48 states as weather allows. As they fly, they’ll use social media to let people know what is happening.
Matt said the first thing he’ll do once he’s back on the ground is go to Starbucks for coffee. His dad said first on his list will be taking a shower.
Chet said he doesn’t look at the flight as a 65-day sentence. “I have the end in sight,” he said. “But there is no end for those who suffer from childhood sexual abuse.”
To learn more or donate to Commit65, go to the GE Innovations Center, next to the Federal Pavilion, on convention grounds, or visit www.Commit65.org.