In one of the novels written by Jules Verne, an adventurous character traveled around the globe in 80 days. Russian rotocraft enthusiasts traveling on two Robinson-R66 light helicopters have pulled off the task in just 44 days.
Chief pilot of the Aviamarket company Dmitry Rakitsky, who led the expedition, spoke upon touchdown at Bunkovo outside Moscow:
“Ours was the first round-the-globe copter flight without prearranged servicing at stopover airports. We did everything ourselves, relying on instruments and equipment that we were carrying with us. The helicopters proved to be quite reliable. We haven’t expended a single spare part. We acquired nothing but fuel on our way.”
Mr Mikhail Farikh was one of the pilots on the team:
“We often endured bad weather and had to fly our choppers over vast expanses of ice-cold seawater. In the process, I was happy that my helicopter didn’t know it was traveling above the ocean. Flying for 12 hours a day is quite an ordeal. Compounding this ordeal were refueling operations and paperwork. Each night, I went to bed feeling absolutely exhausted.”
Chief pilot Rakitsky again:
“On one occasion in Norway, a strong headwind prevented us from reaching our target airfield on time. We had to make an emergency nighttime refueling stop at a closed airport. It was not until 4 a.m. that we reached the target airfield.”
Pilot Farikh remembers pleasant surprises on the way:
“Traveling across southern Spain, we received a radio instruction to fly over a beach near Malaga. When we did, we observed a group of people holding huge streamers with greetings in their hands. It was a very stimulating experience.”
The expedition traveled from east to west. Accordingly, it experienced not 44, but only 43 daybreaks and sunsets.