Update: Texas pilot flying solo around the world stops over in Pago
American Samoa was the stopover point, for rest and refueling, for Texas pilot Brian Lloyd who is flying solo on his single engine plane around the world, to commemorate American female aviator Amelia Earhart’s famous flight 80-years ago.
“My plan is to take with me some flowers or flower leis to drop over Howland Island, which is where Amelia Earhart disappeared,” Lloyd said during an interview with Samoa News at Pago Pago International Airport last Saturday, not long after landing around 8:45p.m. on a flight from Hamilton, New Zealand.
The Associated Press reported last week that the disappearance of Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan on July 2, 1937, in the Western Pacific Ocean has been the subject of continuing searches, research, and debate.
A longstanding theory is that the famed pilot ran out of gas and crashed into deep ocean waters northwest of Howland Island, a tiny speck in the South Pacific that she and Noonan missed, according to the AP.
American Samoa is not known to have been a stopover or planned stop for Earhart.
The 62-year-old Lloyd explained that the stopover in American Samoa — instead of other Pacific Islands — was based on “pretty much logistics”, adding that it's a long distance to Howland Island, where he will do a flyover to drop the flowers and then on to Hawai’i, with a stopover at Lihue on the island of Kauai.
“There’s fuel here [Pago Pago], there’s services here, and it ended up being just the location for my trip,” he said, adding that he was looking at a possible stop in Fiji, but American Samoa is a “much better place for me” as a stopover.
Lloyd’s plan was to depart Pago Pago around 3a.m. or 4a.m. today (Monday) on the longest leg of his solo flight on board his plane “Spirit” — some 19 hours from American Samoa to Hawai’i, with a flyover of Howland Island during daylight.
According to the History Channel, it was on June 1, 1937 that Earhart, accompanied by Noonan, took off from Oakland, California, on an eastbound flight around the world. It was her second attempt to become the first pilot ever to circumnavigate the globe.
She flew a twin-engine Lockheed 10E Electra, which flew to Miami, Florida, then down to South America, across the Atlantic to Africa, then east to India and Southeast Asia. The flight plan was to return back to Oakland. (www.history.com)
For Lloyd, he flew from his home state of Texas to Miami, where he officially launched on June 1st, the two-month solo flight — following Earhart’s historic route to circumnavigate the world at the equator — starts in Miami, skirts South America, crosses the Atlantic, then Africa, and onward around the world, according to his website, Project Amelia Earhart 2018 (www.projectameliaearhart.org), that also provides a link to his flight plan with updates on Facebook.
From Hawai’i, he heads to Oakland, California before returning to Texas.
When asked why it was important for him to mark the 80th anniversary of Earhart’s global flight, Lloyd first pointed out that “I grew up in aviation” — his father, uncle and his sons are all pilots.
“It’s just something that runs in my family. My father and I in 1985 flew our airplane from Washington D.C. to Paris [France] for the Paris Air Show,” he said during an interview on a breezy Saturday night, at the airport.
“We always talked about flying around the world. So part of it is just, ‘it’s what we do’,” he explained. “The other part is, ‘we could do this’.”
“Without the pioneers who came before — people like Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Wyle Post and all of these pilots — back in the 1920s, 1930s, and 40s — paved the way for us to have aviation where we can get in an airplane and go anywhere in the world, anytime we want to, and it's the safest means of travel there is,” he said.
“So someone has to go back and say, ‘Remember these people, remember the people who made this possible?' We forget that this wasn’t always this easy to do,” he said. “And so what I’m doing is to bring that back a little bit and say, ‘Look, it wasn’t easy to do and I’m doing it to help you understand’ aviation.”
“I literally took tens of thousands of people along with me on Facebook so that I can write about it. I post pictures, I post videos, to share the idea and share the information, so they can in someway experience it as well and understand how hard this was. What [Amelia Earhart] did was very very difficult,” he pointed out.
“And she did it in a time when women didn’t do things like this. Unfortunately she didn’t survive, she disappeared and no one really knows what happened to her. But it's pretty safe to say that she and [navigator] Fred Noonan did not survive. But that doesn’t make her attempt any less,” he said.
“I can certainly say, after having flown this much of the trip, my respect for her and Fred Noonan has increased a thousand fold, because I now have walked 20,000 miles in her shoes. She was a solo pilot, I’m a solo pilot,” he said. “I have electronics to do the things that Fred Noonan was doing for her, but I still have a pretty good idea of what it was like for her to make her trip and I understand - at least a little bit better.”
Lloyd also shared that there’s “not a huge difference in either capacity or performance” of his single engine plane, than the plane flown by Earhart. He did acknowledge that there have been changes in technology over the years, such as electronics and navigation compared to 1937.
“But the airplane itself — the differences are not that great,” he said and noted that his plane is the same size, weight, and horsepower as Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” plane that flew 90 years ago from New York to Paris in 1927.
When asked if that is why his plane is named “Spirit”, Lloyd responded, “Yes, that’s part of it. I thought maybe calling it, Spirit of Aviation, but I thought that might be a little bit too pretentious. So I just used ‘Spirit’ to sort of get the spirit of aviation.”
With a full day on the ground yesterday, Lloyd looked forward to visiting the island.