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  Fastest Round the World Trip-world record set by IAF

[Aug 20] HINDON, Uttar Pradesh, India-- Two intrepid Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots flew in here yesterday after creating two new world records for circumnavigating the globe in a microlight aircraft.

IAF pilots Wg.Cdr. Anil Kumar (left) and Rahul Monga with Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major (centre), after creating a record by completing the microlight expedition, at Hindon Air Force station near Delhi on Sunday.Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

    Flying over 16 countries and touching 81 destinations, Wing Commanders Rahul Monga and Anil Kumar completed their journey in 80 days, shaving 19 days off the existing mark of 99 days held by Britain’s Colin Bodil since 2001.    

    The 300-kg microlight plane covered a distance of 40, 497 kilometres over varied terrain ranging from plains, dense forests, deserts and seas.

   They also bettered Bodil’s airspeed record of 16.53km per hour by recording 21.09km.

   Asked about the experience, Monga said, "it was thoroughly enjoyable. We got to meet different people from varied cultures. It was a good gesture from all the countries who supported us, including Pakistan."

    The team was received at Hindon by top IAF officials, including Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major. The expedition entered the Indian air space near Bhuj on Saturday night after a historic stopover at Karachi for refuelling.

  The team acted as goodwill ambassadors of the country across the globe. "At Karachi, we felt at home. We were greeted by a Pakistani Air Force Air Commodore at the airfield and had food together while the aircraft refuelled," Monga said.
  A bag of lovingly prepared sandwiches and a tank full of fuel set off the Indian team for the final leg into India.

    The expedition, flagged in by Air Chief Marshal F. H. Major, saw the pilots cover 40,497 km in 80 days flying over 19 countries.

   F H Major set the tone for military diplomacy by thanking the countries that hosted the team. “The IAF will gladly reciprocate this generous hospitality at any time. It has fostered goodwill across nations,” he said.
      The pilots, Wing Cdr Rahul Monga and Wing Cdr Anil Kumar, had taken off from Hindan on June 1.     

     The original plan was to complete the trip in 64 days, but bad weather has preceded the expedition all through and delayed them at a number of places, especially in China, Russia, Alaska and then in Europe.

    The microlight, specially vulnerable to inclement weather, got stuck at anchorage in Alaska for six days and in Germany for four days waiting for the weather to clear.

    The expedition had to contend with a fair amount of bad weather en route and was also stuck at Anchorage in Alaska for six days. Notwithstanding this, the aircraft entered Canada and then headed for Iceland, often making quick alterations to the original planned route.

   The crossing of the formidable North Atlantic was done solo by Monga and he negotiated the inclement weather flying over frozen seas and icebergs for a considerable period of time. The weather kept the expedition on the ground for four days in Germany. The crew then crossed the icy Alps and entered Italy.

   This expedition never had a dull movement with a minor unserviceability occurring in Italy, causing them to do an unplanned landing.

   The crew handled each and every situation in very professional manner. The next challenge was the encountering of High temperatures and consequent high Density altitudes (a condition of reduced air density) which pose difficulties in flying.

   The hot weather coupled with mountainous terrain also led to excessive turbulence which made the flying conditions uncomfortable.

   The Round-the-World microlight expedition was flagged off on June one by Major from Hindon as a part of Platinum Jubilee Celebrations of the IAF.

   The aim was to circumnavigate the earth (minimum distance of 36,889 kms) in the shortest period of time. The Air Chief in his address at the time of Flag-Off ceremony had directed them to go "Around the World in Eighty Days."

    "These two have shown what trans-oceanic reach really is. We are thankful to the governments of all the nations who supported us. They have built goodwill for the IAF," said Air Chief Marshal Major, lauding the two pilots.