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Limitless Horizons

June 6, 2014, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Limitless Horizons
ABERDEEN, SD -

From San Diego to San Diego. That's the flight plan for an Aberdeen Central graduate trying to break a world record.

Matthew Guthmiller plans to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world. He took off last week and plans to finish his trip in a month.

Guthmiller has been flying less than three years.  His flight plan around the world totals about 29,000 miles.

"The biggest thing I'm trying to accomplish for the whole thing is just to go out and inspire other people to attempt really big things like flying solo around the world," Guthmiller said.

Guthmiller had somewhere around 500 flight hours to his credit when he started his trip last week. He found someone willing to lease a plane to a teenager with that amount of flying experience. Then some seats had to come out, replaced with additional fuel tanks.

There was a lot of other fundraising and planning involved, too.

"Got it all put together and now I'm doing it," Guthmiller said.

It all started about a year ago when Guthmiller read about someone in California working to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world. Being a pilot, Guthmiller thought he'd try it himself.

"Right away I was pretty determined to make it happen, you know. I read this article about the other kid and immediately just e-mailed it to my parents and all my closest friends and said, 'I'm going to do this next summer,'" Guthmiller said.

Matthew’s parents, Allen Guthmiller and Shirley Gengerke Guthmiller, remember receiving that message.

"I thought it was just a passing idea and I didn't think about it again until he got a little bit more serious about it," Allen Guthmiller said.

"Right away I thought, 'Yeah, he's talking about this but he'll never do it.’ And I should know by now that usually when he puts his mind to something, he does do it," Gengerke Guthmiller said.

"He just started planning one event after the next event. The next thing I knew, he had a plane arranged and non-profit set up and away we went," Allen Guthmiller said.

Guthmiller is raising money to cover trip expenses and support an organization that helps bring computer science education to schools. When his trip brought him through Aberdeen, former teachers came out to greet him and said Guthmiller was a great student himself.

"I really didn't know what he was going to do but I knew that the sky was the limit and if he put his mind to it, he was going to accomplish it," 4th grade teacher Elaine Just said.  "He was always studying something. I remember in 4th grade he was studying to become a scuba diver. And so he would read all of the manuals and he was always motivated to go above and beyond what the assignment was."

Still, no one knew that would lead to his current endeavor. Guthmiller's parents say they support their son's trip. His family says they're not doing a lot of worrying, but they are doing a lot of something else.

"I just leave him in the Lord's hands and keep praying," Gengerke Guthmiller said.

"I've got him in my prayers and I think he'll do fine," his grandmother Marie Gengerke said.

They're able to know for sure along the way. The 19-year-old has a website where anyone from strangers to his grandma can track his trip.

"I don't have computer or anything but I'm staying with my daughter and whatever she sees, I see," Gengerke said.

His grandma was one of many thankful to give Guthmiller a hug as he prepared to leave Aberdeen Monday and continue around the world. She joins others hoping to see him again in July with a world record to his credit.

"I think it's cool to accomplish but at the same time I think it's cool to go out and show people that a 19-year-old with 500 flight hours can go do something like fly solo around the world. In the same way, somebody that puts their mind to something else can go out and kind of break that down and figure out how to do it and accomplish that, too," Matthew Guthmiller said.

Guthmiller just finished his freshman year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s majoring in computer science and electrical engineering.

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