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Action Aviation

Qatar Executive

Gulfstream G650

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Qatar Executive breaks circumnavigation speed record
Qatar Executive, together with the One More Orbit team, has beaten the world circumnavigation speed record flying over the North and South poles, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The successful team pose with the G650ER.
Read this story in our August 2019 printed issue.

Action Aviation chairman Hamish Harding, NASA astronaut Terry Virts and crew made history by beating the world record for any aircraft flying over the North and South poles in a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER aircraft. The mission’s record flight time was 46 hours, 39 minutes and 38 seconds and was achieved at an average speed of 465 nm.

“Our mission, titled One More Orbit, pays homage to the Apollo 11 moon landing achievement, by highlighting how humans push the boundaries of aeronautics,” says Harding. “We did this during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the 500th anniversary of man first circling the planet. It is our way of paying tribute to the past, the present and the future of space exploration.”

The Gulfstream G650ER departed the NASA shuttle landing facility at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on Tuesday, 9 July at 9.32am to begin its pole to pole mission. The One More Orbit team on board consisted of Virts Harding, while the Qatar Executive crew consisted of pilots Jacob Obe Bech, Jeremy Ascough and Yevgen Vasylenko, engineer Benjamin Reuger and flight attendant Magdalena Starowicz.

Russian cosmonaut Colonel Gennady Padalka, record holder for the most days in space by any human (879 days), joined the crew in Nursultan, Kazakhstan, and got off again in Mauritius for a short beach holiday.

Qatar Executive EVP Ettore Rodaro says: “Our Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650 is the fastest ultra long range business jet in the world. It has phenomenal range capabilities, industry-leading cabin technology and unparalleled passenger comfort, making it the perfect aircraft to attempt this mission in. It can fly at a faster speed for longer distances than any other jet, with its incredible

7,500 nm range.”

The mission was split into four sectors: the NASA shuttle landing facility in Florida to Astana, Astana to Mauritius; Mauritius to Chile, and Chile back to Florida, with refuelling pit stops in each location. The aircraft landed at Kennedy Space Centre on Thursday, 11 July, successfully setting a new world record of flying pole to pole in under 46 hours and 40 minutes.

Qatar Airways Group chief executive HE Mr Akbar Al Baker says: “Qatar Executive, together with the One More Orbit team, has made history. A mission like this takes a huge amount of planning as we need to factor in the flight paths, fuel stops, potential weather conditions and make plans for all possibilities. Many people behind the scenes worked tirelessly to ensure this mission was a success and I am very proud that we broke the world record, a first for Qatar Executive, which will be certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and Guinness World Records.”

The crew established radio contact with astrophysicist Benjamin Eberhardt who is over-wintering in Antarctica: “While talking to you as you flew overhead the South Pole, my camera was on the roof … looking for you,” wrote Eberhardt later. “The weather wasn't great, but your lights were bright enough to shine through a thin layer of clouds right overhead, along with the Southern Cross and Pointer Stars. Thanks again for calling us, Hamish. It was a nice surprise communicating with a plane for the first time after five months and hearing some stories of your adventures. I hope it did not get too cold for you over Antarctica … congratulations for the new record,”

The FAI average speed record that stood for 11 years was held by Captain Aziz Ojjeh in a Bombardier Global XRS from 2008. Ojjeh completed the polar circum-navigation in 52 hours and 32 minutes, at an average ground speed of 444 kts. He did not claim

the Guinness world record for his achievement, but would have qualified for both.

According to Guinness World Records the fastest aerial circum-navigation of the Earth via both geographical poles was achieved by Captain Walter Mullikin 42 years ago in a Pan Am Boeing 747SP in 1977 in 54 hours and seven minutes, at an average speed of 423 kts. He started and ended in San Francisco, stopping in South Africa and New Zealand.

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