International team led by British pilot set a new world record for the fastest journey around the globe via the North and South poles – covering 25,000 miles in less than 47 hours
- Team led by London pilot Hamish Harding and NASA astronaut Col Terry Virts
- They travelled 24,966 miles in 46 hours, 39 minutes and 38 seconds
- Stopped three times for ‘pit stops’ in Chile, Mauritius and Kazakhstan
An international team of aviators led by a British pilot has set a new record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe.
Pilot Hamish Harding, of St John’s Wood, London, and NASA astronaut Colonel Terry Virts travelled 24,966 miles in 46 hours, 39 minutes and 38 seconds.
The pair smashed the previous record of 54 hours, seven minutes and 12 seconds in their Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER.
Averaging 534.97mph the pair now hold the world record for the fastest journey around the world via the north and south poles.
Mr Harding, who is chairman of Action Aviation, said he was ‘ecstatic’ after touching down at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA.
Pilot Hamish Harding, of St John’s Wood, London, and NASA astronaut Colonel Terry Virts travelled 24,966 miles in 46 hours, 39 minutes and 38 seconds. A map shows their route and stop points
He told The Times: ‘We pushed the boundaries of aeronautics and the aircraft handled it flawlessly.’
They did have to make three pitstops to refuel, in Kazakhstan, Mauritius and Chile landing for around 30 minutes each.
Colonel Virts, of Baltimore, Maryland, has spent 213 days in space in his career and has orbited the Earth more than 3,400 times.
He told the newspaper: ‘Those were like Formula One pitstops. They had to be, because that clock was ticking on us and we didn’t know if there might be anything coming up ahead that could slow us down.’
The pair made the journey to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landings and the 500 years since the first known circumnavigation of the globe by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1519.
They named the mission One More Orbit and claim, despite their tight-schedule, they had time to take pictures along the way.
Mr Harding and Col Virts were accompanied by three other pilots – from Denmark, South Africa and Ukraine – one flight attendant from Poland and one cosmonaut from Russia.
They were also aided by Captain Ian Cameron, also from the UK, who was the director at the mission control centre.
The One More Orbit team are pictured with Mr Harding third left and Colonel Virts fourth right
Things got nerve-racking as they flew over the south pole and the temperature fell to -83C – three belows lower than the jet’s limit.
They were forced to fly 5,000ft lower to increase temperatures for fear of a fatal incident.
Beforehand they radioed down to the Amundsen-Scott research base where they spoke to personnel they last spoke with during a 2016 expedition with Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin.
One More Obit broke other aviation records, which were verified by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
It has been described as ‘nothing short of historic’ by experts who cheered as they came back down to earth.