Lancair builder Bill Harrelson sets solo circumnavigation record

By Willie Bodenstein (Photos and images ZQ Pilot's Post and Bill Ha

When Bill Harrelson Lancair builder and owner landed in his Lancair IV in Ontario, California on 15 December 2019, he smashed Max Conrad's 58-year-old eight-day record set in 1961. Conrad flew around the world in a Piper Aztec in 1961 in eight days, 18 hours and 49 minutes. Bill had completed his journey and (unofficially, pending verification) broken Conrad's record by 19 hours and 28 minutes.

Bill chose the Lancair IV powered by a Continental IO-500 engine and a new Electroair electronic ignition system for its speed and efficiency. The Electroair system replaces the stock magnetos and lowered the fuel burn by 1 to 1.1. gallon-per-hour, a significant amount when working with the kinds of distances he covered on the route.

A crucial component in the success of the attempt was fuel capacity and the Lancair was modified to hold a total of 361 gallons in nine tanks. The total fuel weight of 2166 lbs. were 95.5 lbs. more than the empty wight of the Lancair.

Starting in Lakeland, Florida on 5 December Bill's attempt consisted of five legs:
Leg 1: Lakeland, FL to Honolulu, HI - estimated flight time 22 hours
Leg 2: Honolulu, HI to Jakarta, INA - estimated flight time 31 hours
Leg 3: Jakarta, INA to Cape Town, ZA - estimated flight time 29 hours
Leg 4: Cape Town, ZA to San Juan, PR - estimated flight time 29 hours
Leg 5: San Juan, PR to Lakeland, FL - estimated flight time 5 hours

To break Max's record, Bill had to beat his speed by a 1% minimum which is 108.4 knots. Bill's total distance will be 21,951 miles. In order to beat the record, he had to fly those miles in 168 hours at an average speed of 130.76 knots per hour.

Photo © ZQ Pilot's post / RAW Aviation.

Bill arrived in Cape Town after a 29-hour flight from Jakarta, Indonesia where Raw Aviation's Bruce, Mark and Jaco helped him with an oil change and some minor fixes. He left Cape Town at 19h42 South African Standard time (1742Z) and after 31 hours and 42 minutes and 5,754 nautical miles, Bill landed in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

From San Juan to Lakeland was, considering the distances of his previous legs, a short hop of five hours. Bill, who already holds a few records including one for the fastest flight around the world while crossing both poles, was home having completed the fastest light-plane flight around-the-world ever.

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