Two Delta Air Lines pilots say they visited 48 US states in under 48 hours, potentially breaking a world record, the Atlanta-based carrier reported.
Captains Barry Behnfeldt and Aaron Wilson completed their goal of stopping in all 48 contiguous states in less time than they expected – accomplishing it in 44 hours and seven minutes, according to a news release.
Aside from the world-record attempt by the pair of US military veterans, which has not yet been confirmed by Guinness World Records, the men sought to inspire future pilots and raise funds for the Veteran’s Airlift Command.
The organization provides free, private air travel for combat-injured veterans. Behnfeldt and Wilson have raised over $30,000 for the VAC.
They also wanted to acknowledge this year as the 120th anniversary of powered flight.
The pilots initially planned for a trip of 43 hours and 31 minutes while leaving room for setbacks, according to their website.
The mission began with a conversation between Behnfeldt, who’s worked at Delta for 24 years, and a fellow airline pilot.
“We were talking one day on one of our legs, and he talked about this pilot that he had flown with that attempted to set this Guinness World Record in landing in 48 states,” Behnfeldt told CNN. “It sparked an interest.”
From there, Behnfeldt said he reached out to Wilson, who, like Behnfeldt, also pilots Delta planes and also attended the Bowling Green State University School of Aviation.
“He had all the logistics and everything figured out,” Wilson said in a news release from their alma mater.
“Flying across the country in a small airplane is something I’ve always wanted to do, so I was immediately sold on the idea,” Wilson said in the release. “I didn’t have any hesitation about saying yes.”
Behnfeldt, who served in the US Navy for 30 years, said his Navy pal and fellow pilot Thomas Twiddy also joined the pair on the trip as an in-flight technician.
The trio set off at night on June 4 from Berrien Springs, Michigan, for a journey of 5,008 miles that included no hotel stays – only periods of rest aboard the small plane as each pilot took turns flying to each state.
Their journey wrapped up on June 6 when they landed in the afternoon in Portland, Maine.
Flying in Behnfeldt’s single-engine Piper Saratoga plane, they flew across the US intending to spend between 10 minutes and just under a half an hour at each airport, Behnfeldt told CNN.
The only time the plane was shut off during their brief stops was during the refueling process, Behnfeldt said.
“And as it turned out, for the 41 stops that we did where we did not take fuel and we didn’t shut down, the average time on the ground was 8 minutes,” said Behnfeldt, who accommodated for about 18 minutes on the ground for fuel stops in his initial planning.
One of their stops was in Coffeyville, Kansas, around 11:30 p.m., Behnfeldt recalled.
“There were close to 50 people (of all ages) out on the ramp greeting us, and we weren’t supposed to take fuel there,” he said.
The pilots decided to shut down briefly and refuel and hand out t-shirts at the stop where so many had come out to support them.
“A 6-year-old girl came up me and asked, ‘Would you sign my T-shirt?’” Behnfeldt said. “It took us a little longer to get through that stop, but it was 100% worth it.”
Behnfeldt and Wilson will have to wait several weeks before receiving confirmation of whether their impressive flight path qualified as a world record, a Guinness World Record spokesperson told CNN in an email.