To commemorate the launch of the first moon landing 50 years ago this month, an international team of pilots at the controls of a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER is attempting to break the polar circumnavigation of the Earth record for any aircraft. The ultra-long-range twinjet took off this morning at 9:32 a.m. from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the same time and location where the Apollo 11 launch took place in 1969 and is required to finish there according to the sanctioning bodies Féderátion Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and the Guinness Book of Records.
If successful, the approximately 48-hour mission will cross over both poles, breaking an 11-year-old FAI record for average speed set by Captain Aziz Ojjeh in a Bombardier Global XRS and the Guinness record based on minimum time set in 1977 by a Pan Am Boeing 747SP.
This attempt will cover 22,422 nm and require three refueling stops, which are being planned with race-car pit stop efficiency in Kazakhstan, Mauritius, and Chile. Among the crew is mission director Captain Hamish Harding, chairman of Action Aviation; former U.S. Air Force test pilot, space shuttle astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station (ISS) Col. Terry Virts; and Col. Gennady Padalka, Mir and Soyuz cosmonaut, ISS commander and holder of the record for most days in space by any human.