MANILA, Philippines–Surely it takes guts to fly a plane solo across the globe—and at only 19 years of age.
The American teenage pilot who is attempting to make it to the Guinness World Records as the youngest person to circumnavigate the world alone, Matthew Lee Guthmiller, reached the Philippines on Tuesday afternoon, making a three-day stop here before flying on to Australia.
Guthmiller, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was given a warm welcome by officials and employees of aviation products supplier Varace Air Corp. and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) as soon as he landed his Beechcraft Bonanza A36 in Pasay City.
The American pilot arrived at 5 p.m., an hour later than expected as he had to go around a thunderstorm on his way from Kuala Lumpur to the Philippines.
As soon as he got out of his aircraft, the bespectacled Guthmiller flashed a smile and waved to waiting photographers and television crew.
“This is the best reception I’ve gotten so far. It’s quite amazing. I did not expect this much,” he said.
A freshman at MIT majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, Guthmiller got his private pilot’s license on his 17th birthday.
He embarked on his record-breaking journey on May 31, with San Diego, California, as the start-off point.
He flew to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and New York City in the United States, and St. John’s, Newfoundland, in Canada, before heading off over the Atlantic Ocean.
He made stops in Azores, Portugal; London, England; Rome, Italy; Athens, Greece; Dubai, UAE; Calcutta, India; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, before flying to the Philippines.
Guthmiller plans to cover more than 28,000 miles for this world-record-breaking attempt, making 25 stops in 14 countries.
He flies his aircraft at a cruising speed of approximately 160 knots (185 miles per hour).
He is more than half-way to his destination, with at least three more stops in Australia and New Caledonia before flying back to the US. In the United States, he will land in American Samoa, Hawaii, San Diego, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.
When he reaches his hometown of Aberdeen by the first week of July, Guthmiller is expected to break the world record currently held by Australian Ryan Campbell.
Campbell was 19 years, seven months and 25 days old when he completed the feat in September 2013.
The American teenager would be 16 days younger than Campbell if he finishes his journey in the US by July 8, 2014.
Guthmiller began planning his journey in May last year, a few months before Campbell started his.
He was inspired by another aviator, 21-year-old Jack Wiegand of California.
“In May last year, I heard about another guy doing it in California. He was 21. I said I can also do that,” said Guthmiller.
He began planning the journey and thinking through all the things he would need, most especially the aircraft he would use.
He said he was able to find someone who agreed to lease his aircraft to him for his solo flight around the word. “But it took a lot of convincing,” he said.
Even his parents were skeptical of his plan. “They did not believe me at first. But I had figured out how to do it,” Guthmiller said.
For this young pilot, flying around the world is “just like any other flying,” except that it takes longer to reach destinations.
The longest time that he was up in the air was 12 hours when he flew from Calcutta to Kuala Lumpur.
It will take him 14 and a half hours to fly from American Samoa to Hawaii.
Asked if he has ever felt afraid flying alone, he answered: “No, not at all.”
The only difficulty he experienced was navigating through monsoon rains and thunderstorms, he said.
“I’m not used to that in the US. But I just keep going,” he said.
For Guthmiller, the purpose of the month-long journey is not merely to see the world from his plane.
“I want to take it to the next level and inspire people. You don’t have to be old to do something big. If you have a big idea, you can break it down and figure out how to do it,” he said.
It could be going around the world, starting a company or building a computer program, he said.
Guthmiller is also hoping to raise money through sponsorships that he plans to donate to Code.org, a nonprofit advocating expanded participation in computer science by making it available to more schools.
In previous interviews, the teenager said he was looking at donating about $105,000 to Code.org through the sponsors who have been shelling out money for his trip.
Guthmiller, who left Manila Thursday, was shown around the capital by the Department of Tourism and Varace Air which gave him aviation gas and lubricants for free.
The young pilot had contacted Varace Air through e-mail, corresponding with the company’s staff even while flying the plane.
“I want to see a bit of everything in Manila,” he said on his arrival.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the Manila International Airport Authority waived all duties and fees that Guthmiller would have had to pay upon landing.
“It was a nice view on the way in,” he said to the airport officials.
Guthmiller has set up a website limitless.horizons.org, where his flight can be tracked in real time.