BY CARMEN ANDERSON
Not everyone flying into Gibraltar in turbulent conditions would describe the landing as “fun”, let alone if flying in a single engine aircraft, but for eighteen-year-old pilot, Travis Ludlow, it was another step in a record-breaking adventure. “It was unusual landing in Gibraltar! It was really windy and turbulent as I was flying in, which was definitely a bit daunting, but the runway was great, as were the air traffic controllers. I had a lot of fun getting to land there.”
Travis Ludlow has become the youngest aviator to circumnavigate the globe in a single-engine aircraft, breaking a world record. From Ibstone, Buckinghamshire, Travis became the UK’s youngest glider pilot at the age of fourteen. He ended his 24,900-mile journey join the Netherlands, having spent forty-four days travelling.
His incredible flight, in his 2001 Cessna 172R, flew him across Europe, Russia and America, then Canada, Greenland and Iceland on his return; a route which included some sixty stops across nine countries. It is undoubtedly one of the most difficult and dangerous things that can be attempted in a single-engine airplane.
No such attempt can be made without detailed preparation and Travis had been getting ready for some considerable time, as he explains: “The initial plan was for me to actually fly around the world last year and beat the record at seventeen years old, but the pandemic set me back. However, I am glad in some ways that this happened. It allowed me to gather more experience and to gain more knowledge in aviation.”
Travis speaks of his feat with remarkable composure. “I am quite a calm person which is part of being a pilot; you have to ensure that you are collected in difficult situations. Quite often, you’ll have in the back of your mind all the things that could be going wrong, but most of the time, I manage to keep calm, despite this.”
The plan was for me to fly around the world and beat the record at seventeen years old.
Although there are undoubtedly risks and dangers, Travis is an experienced pilot. “I started flying at the age of twelve and haven’t stopped since!” he says, “The youngest you can have a license is at the age of seventeen, and I picked mine up on the morning of my seventeenth birthday.” Inevitably, how his achievement might contribute towards the lives of other youngsters is not far from his mind, and he says: “I decided to do this to inspire young people, especially people interested in aviation, to follow their dreams. No matter what gets in their way, no matter what negativity or hate they get for it, as long as they keep pushing and aiming for their goals, eventually they will achieve them. As well as this, I have been raising money for UNICEF and their cause during the project.”
The journey, although physically and mentally challenging, was extraordinarily successful according to Travis: “I am extremely happy with how it’s gone. The flight itself went perfectly; the planning and preparation were probably harder than the actual flying itself! It was so close to not happening, but it worked out amazingly.”
Travis talks with enthusiasm about his trip, about his excitement at being able to show his friends the certificate awarding him the world record, and about the future and what that might hold. “I have so many opportunities available now. I have had an offer from British Airways to try some of their simulators, and they’ve asked me to bring along my CV so that’s a cool offer from them!” And not just his future, but the future of aviation as an industry: “I am quite interested in the development of electrically powered airplanes; I would love to test fly them. Pushing for a renewable source in aviation is so important now with the current climate situation.”
Gibraltar’s landing strip is considered a tough call even for career pilots in powerful passenger craft, but Travis’ composure gave him a positive perspective. Given his wide experience of some sixty or more landing strips across the world, Gibraltar fares rather well: “Gibraltar has to be up there with one of my favourite places to land! I also enjoyed landing in Ketchikan, Alaska; it was so beautiful and quite similar to Gibraltar’s airport.”