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Guthmiller Speaks On Record Breaking Flight

August 9, 2014, 3:49 PM

Guthmiller Speaks On Record Breaking Flight

This story comes to us from CBS This Morning.

At an age when most kids are just learning to how to drive, Matt Guthmiller was learning how to fly. And now he’s a world record-holder.

At 19-years-old, he’s the youngest pilot ever to circumnavigate the globe -- and he did it alone.

He flew 30,000 miles, making 23 stops in 15 countries on five continents. Along the way, South Dakota teenager Matt Guthmiller was treated like a rock star for his record-breaking flight. He also heard what the critics had to say.

"It's too risky," or "this is some spoiled, rich brat going out and having a good time."

Carter Evans: What do you say to those people?
Matt: Not much. It was certainly a lot of fun and I had a good time, but it was a lot of work and I hope that what I did inspires other people to go out and do big things.

He was inspired to pilot a plane at an early age, first asking his parents to eat at airport cafes. Later he pushed for flying lessons.

“They agreed to let me do this little $20, 20-minute intro flight, but I think they probably thought that was going to be the end of that,” Guthmiller said

It wasn’t. He soon made a deal to get more time in the cockpit.

Matt: A little arrangement where I would share a car with my dad throughout high school instead of having my own car. In exchange, I got to fly planes.
Carter: Do you own a car?
Matt: No, I've never had a car.
Carter: You have a plane, but no car?
Matt: right.

By the age of 17, he had his pilot’s license and two years later leased this single engine Beachcraft for his solo flight around the world. The M.I.T. student performed plane maintenance and his own fuel calculations. Long hours in the air meant some additional fuel for him as well.

Carter: How did you stay alert?
Matt: Basically, a lot of caffeine and Oreos.
Carter: So on one of those long legs, how many Oreos and sodas were you going through?
Matt: It varied. There was one where I went through a couple of whole rows of Oreos. 

Flying into the clouds was both beautiful and dangerous. Air traffic controllers in other countries did not have the weather radar to help him navigate around thunderstorms.

Matt: I have no idea which clouds were just a little bit higher than where I'm at and which ones go up to 45,000 feet and will break the plane apart.
Carter: You're flying a plane that's not pressurized; it doesn't have oxygen, so you have a fairly low ceiling you can't fly above the clouds.
Matt: Right. And with a bunch of fuel it's hard to get up any higher.

One day after our interview, another young pilot, 17-year-old Haris Suleman, died after crashing his plane on what Guthmiller calls the most difficult leg of his own journey, American Samoa to Hawaii. Guthmiller flew from the same airstrip as Suleman and says the take-off is technically challenging because of the heavy fuel load needed for the 16-hour stretch.

In spite of the risks and even a fear of heights, Guthmiller succeeded in breaking the record and raising money for Computer Science education through code.org. He’s a coder himself, who started his own tech company at the age of 12. His goals are more than sky-high.

Matt: I think it would be really cool to start the next Apple, but we'll see how that goes.
Carter: Aiming high?
Matt: Yeah I guess that's how I look at everything//shoot for the stars, you can get somewhere good.

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