Flying Solo

2Jack Wiegand at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai

It is easy to gauge American youngster Jack Wiegand's love for aircrafts. At 13, he had piloted his first glider and three years later, he flew solo on a single engine power plane. By 17, he earned his pilot wings. Now at 20, Wiegand aims to break the record for the youngest person to complete a solo circumnavigation of the globe.

"As a kid, I would accompany my father to air shows organised by the National Guard and watch pilots performing maneuvers in F-16s. I knew then that I wanted to become a pilot and fly like them," he says, over the phone from Mumbai, having landed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on his India stopover of his 21,000 nautical miles journey around the globe. Flying in his twin-seater Mooney Ovation 2 aircraft, the 20 year-old resident of Fresno, California, is attempting to break the existing record set by 22-year-old Swiss pilot Carlo Schmidt, last year. While Schmidt took 80 days, Wiegand hopes to complete the trip in 50. He confesses to being an adrenaline junkie, in search of the next big thrill. When he is not flying, he loves to ski and go hunting. His favourite book is Lone Survivor, an account of a US special forces operation in Afghanistan. "Initially, when I was preparing for the challenge, it was about breaking the record and having my name in the history books. But now, it is the urge to succeed," he says.

Wiegand dedicated a year to prepare for his record-breaking attempt. He took a semester off from the University of Colorado, Boulder. "The preparation was mostly logistical, getting entry clearances and permissions for different countries, and mental toughness," says Wiegand, who clocked over 600 flying hours before attempting the record. This adventure has not been cheap. Two charities in the US helped raise $ 170,000, half of which goes towards charity. "Had it not been for this money, I would not have been attempting this challenge," says Wiegand, whose family are not aviation enthusiasts, but "they supported me."

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