QuickCheck: Did an aircraft fly non-stop without landing for over a month?

LIKE ANY other motor-powered vehicle, an aircraft requires fuel, maintenance and repair to function.

Along with this, its crew would need food, toilet breaks, and sleep.

As such, any attempt to keep an aircraft in the air for a whole month without landing would seem utterly unbelievable, if not ridiculous.

So, would you believe that there was an aircraft that was flown non-stop for a month; is it true that such a feat has been accomplished?



This long flight was achieved by Americans Robert Timm and John Cook in 1958 and 1959 when they flew their modified Cessna 172 over the desert of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

They managed to keep the aircraft flying for 64 days, 22 hr 19 min 5 sec between Dec 4, 1958, and Feb 7, 1959.

This journey - which set a record in the Guinness World Record for the longest time flying an aircraft - was a publicity stunt for the newly-opened Hacienda Hotel and Casino at the end of the Las Vegas Strip as well as a fundraising bid for cancer research

Timm was a former World War II fighter pilot who became a slot machine repairman at the hotel, and had recruited the aircraft mechanic Cook as his co-pilot.

Prior to the record-setting flight, several attempts were made but all ended in failure after several days due to mechanical issues with the heavily-modified Cessna.

Among the crucial modifications, one of the most important was an extra tank that could be refilled from the ground, and this required experiments to determine the best way to refuel and resupply the plane without needing to land.

On Dec 4, 1958, the Cessna took off. It would fly around the desert of Las Vegas, with the hotel's name painted on the body as an advertisement.

The aircraft was refuelled and resupplied about 128 times across the 64 days without landing through a system involving a truck on the ground, which was explained in a CNN article quoting aviation historian Janet Bednarek.

Bednarek said that refuelling the extra tank Timm and Cooke had set up in the Cessna meant that they had to fly very low, very slow to keep pace with the truck.

"When they needed to refuel, they would come down and fly very low and just above stall speed, then the truck came along and winched up a hose and then used a pump to transfer the fuel into the airplane," she said.

And as for the other necessities of life, the crew would receive food from the Hacienda Hotel's kitchens that had been mashed up to fit into Thermos flasks so that it could be sent up more easily whenever they flew down to receive fuel.

On the other end of things, Timm and Cooke used a foldable camp toilet, with the waste being collected in plastic bags which were thrown out over the desert.

Aside from this, the Cessna had been modified with an extendable platform on the co-pilot's side to give the crew more space with which to bathe or shave.

The water needed for this was sent up along with fuel and food every other day; the crew would receive just under a litre of bath water for both of them to share.

Ultimately, Timm and Cooke landed on Feb 7, 1959 - and with this, a record was set that still stands to this day.

Having said that, both pilots did not escape unscathed from the experience as Timm and Cooke had to be carried out of the Cessna.

"They were in pretty bad shape, We know that such a period of inactivity can be very bad for the body, and even though they did move around in the aircraft, they couldn’t stand up or stretch and they certainly couldn’t exercise or walk around.

“It would be like sitting for 64 days – that is not good for the human body. They had to be carried out of the aircraft," said Bednarek

Timm died in 1976, Cooke in 1995, and the hotel was demolished in December 1996.

All that is left is the aircraft, which now hangs over the Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport's baggage carousel.

And on a related note, if you plan to fly comfortably with style perhaps this might interest you; https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/travel/2024/05/15/sky-high-first-class-service-and-amenities

Having said that, even if you're not, you now have a story to share with your neighbour should you be feeling a little bored on your next flight.






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