When 18-year-old Lachlan Smart touched down in eastern Australia on Saturday, he became the youngest person to fly around the world solo in a single engine aircraft.
His seven-week-long journey flying a Cirrus SR22 aircraft took him to 24 locations and 15 countries, ultimately ending up at the same airstrip where he first took off on July 4. And at 18 years, 7 months and 21 days, he’s almost a full year younger than the previous record holder, American Matt Guthmiller.
Wearing sunglasses and a flight suit, Smart opened the plane’s hatch and waved at the cheering crowd before running over to hug his proud mother.
“I’m just on a high at the moment. That was so amazing to finally be back here in my hometown, the Sunshine Coast, and landing on the runway that I did my initial flight training on was just really special,” the teen aviator said in a video posted by the Sunshine Coast Council. “When I came in over the runway, I didn’t expect to see so many people. And looking at everyone there, it’s really great. I’m so honored to have the support of the community around me, it’s just phenomenal.”
Major challenges during the journey included “weather and dealing with overseas traffic control,” as Australia’s ABC reported. “In the Pacific I had some pretty horrendous weather,” he said.
Speaking to the Australian Associated Press, he said that at one point he “ignored regional traffic controllers in Indonesia and chose his own route because of misguided instructions.” As he put it, “They would have run me into a mountain if I had gone with their instructions.”
According to his website, the journey spanned over 24,000 nautical miles and included stops in “Fiji, American Samoa, Kiribati, Hawaii, mainland USA, Canada, The Azores, Great Britain, France, Greece, Egypt, Oman, Sri Lanka, Malaysia,” Indonesia and finally Australia.
The longest stretch was 13 hours between Hawaii and California, he told Today, and it was also his longest flight ever.
Ahead of Saturday’s landing, here’s how Smart summed up his emotions: “Excitement to be home, relief to have achieved this huge goal, trepidation for what comes next. All things that are going through my mind but in all honesty… I’m just looking forward to being home.”