Robert Ragozzino Around the World in a StearmanRobert Ragozzino - Around the World in a StearmanRobert Ragozzino - Around the World in a Stearman
, 41 , flew into the Centennial Airport on Nov.15.It's not unusual for warbirds to stop at Centennial
, but in this case , it was unusual , since he
was about to become the first person to ever complete a solo circumnavigation in an open cockpit biplane.The pilot , who lives in Norman , Okla. , began his round-the-world trip in The King , his 1942 Boeing Super 450 Stearman , a World War II biplane , on his Stearman World Flight , on June 1 2000 , when he departed from Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City , Okla. He was accompanied on his trip by a Cessna 206 , which served as a chase plane
Upon arriving at Centennial
aircraft between a Challenger and a Gulfstream , and spent time visiting with media and others that gathered around his
had already made stops in over 20 countries in about 50 cites , and had already flown 22 , 500 miles , with 500 more to go.His
trip included stops in New York City , Rome , Calcutta , Hong Kong , and Taipei.He
had just come from Grand Junction , traveling under clear , cold skies , through all the high mountain majesty Colorado has to offer..
After a brief stay , Ragozzino
was off again , this time to Liberal , Kansas , then home to Oklahoma City , and the Wiley Post Airport.
Weather looks good for the rest of the trip , said Ragozzino
, if you discount the cold..
The duo had many adventures along the way , including a month spent in Japan while waiting for a permit to land in Russia.At every stop , well wishers wrote words of encourage on his
says it has been a great ride , the most beautiful way to see the earth..
You can go down low and chase wild stallions through the mountains , said Ragozzino
.You can scatter herds of caribou , you can chase wolves through Alaska , you can just do anything with it , it's really a Harley with wings..Ragozzino's
is an aviation history buff , who plans on writing a book about his
adventures now that he
has completed his
Along the way , he
saw the deserts of Saudi Arabia , the lakes of Iceland and the lights of Paris.He
also visited several former military installations and historic sites , including Adak , Alaska , which was once an active submarine base and top-secret listening station.
Along the way he
faced cold weather , which he
called the enemy , gusty winds , and headwinds , which The King hates. He
and The King found plenty of time , however , to play in the surf , and to scout icy blue glaciers. Their trip took them through narrow mountain waterways , and often through cloud covering that reduced visibility to below acceptable levels..
At times , he
wrote that he
was unable to stay warm , no matter what I wear , and I wear enough clothes for an army. But upon his
arrival to distant shores , he
was greeted by those who offered he
and The King , warmth , and yes , plenty of beer , as well as other sustenance.At many stops , press surrounded him as well.He
was however encouraged by the fact that The King looks good wrapped in a snow blanket..
The pilot/writer , who kept a journal all through his
trip , best described his
trip when he
said that , The natural beauty flows like an endless river under the wings of the Stearman.Effortlessly , the Stearman takes me through Gods country day-by-day , mile-by-mile.The Stearman is strong , I am weak..
Ragozzino fell in love with flight at the age of four , when his
father sat him on his
lap in the cockpit of an airplane.He's been flying professionally since he
was 19 , and flew as a corporate pilot for 20 years , before leaving the corporate world over six years ago to prepare for his
has Commercial , Multi-engine , Instrument and Glider ratings and , before the trip , logged over 8 , 000 flight hours.
purchased the airplane for $ 30 , 000 from a Houston doctor , who was in the process of buying a decommissioned fighter plane.The Stearman was in rough shape at the time , reflecting its years as a trainer plane during World War II , and as a crop duster after the war.He
rebuilt the airframe and switched aluminum for the cloth that had originally covered the Stearman's airframe.Ragozzino founded Stearman World Flight , Inc. , as the organization to sponsor this historic flight
.In 1924 , the United States Army commissioned Douglas Aircraft to design and build five aircraft for an around the world flight attempt.These aircraft were named The Douglas World Cruisers. Four of the five aircraft departed in April of 1924 westbound from Seattle.Two of the cruisers touched down on U.S. Soil 175 days later , becoming pilots of the first and the last open-cockpit biplane circumnavigation. ( One of the places he
visited was Attu , the last island in the Aleutians , which was the original landing spot of the Douglas World Cruisers and the setting of violent combat during World War II between U.S. and Japan.He
described Attu as a mystical island of snow covered mountains and crystal blue bays. ).
Over the years , different pilots have unsuccessfully attempted to circumnavigate the globe in an open-cockpit plane.
For the trip , Ragozzino
modified the aircraft to accommodate a 150-gallon external tank and a 130-gallon internal tank , providing it with a range of approximately 16 hours , or 1 , 600 miles ; it flies at a speed of 100-135 mph.He
also added satellite communication equipment to the plane and boosted its performance with a Pratt and Whitney Wasp Jr. 450 horsepower 985 cubic inch super-charged 9-cylinder radial engine.The aircraft was equipped with $ 100 , 000 worth of video equipment , a $ 55 , 000 radio system and $ 40 , 000 in navigational equipment.
As well as becoming the first person to fly around the world in such an aircraft , his
flight broke the world speed record for global circumnavigation in the open-cockpit biplane class and was the first circumnavigation in an open-cockpit biplane since 1924.It is also the first privately organized and funded circumnavigation in an open-cockpit biplane.
become the first person to ever complete a solo circumnavigation in an open cockpit biplane.Ragozzino
arrived back at Wiley Post Airport on Friday , Nov.17 , at about 3 p.m. , where he was greeted with a Welcome Home Bash , hosted by his
wife Donna , RockCity.com , and Associated Aero.The bash lasted until the last tall tale was told and the tanks ran dry..
For more information and pictures , check out the website at http : //www.stearmanworldflight.com/ First two pic ids.The Stearman , Ken Hydock , Robert
and Brian Watry at Attu.