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World's longest flight equivalent to over six journeys around Earth remains undefeated 65 years later

World's longest flight equivalent to over six journeys around Earth remains undefeated 65 years later

The pilots spent 64 days in the air

From cramping muscles to killer jet lag when you get off the plane, long haul flights can be pretty rough.

But, could you imagine spending more than two months in the air without landing?

That's exactly what two pilots did between 1958 and 1959 when they set the record for the world’s longest-ever flight.

Robert Timm and John Cook set off in their modified Cessna 172 on 4 December, 1958, from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada.

They then flew over Las Vegas non-stop for 64 days, 22 hours, and 19 minutes, landing at the same airport on 7 February, 1959.

In 1958, Robert Timm and John cook spent a whopping 64 days straight flying a modified plane around Las Vegas.
Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum

In total, the pair travelled 240,000 kilometres (150,000 miles), which is equivalent to more than six journeys around the Earth.

And, 65 years later, their record still hasn't been beaten.

But, just how did they do it?

Before embarking on the flight, Timm spent months modifying a Cessna 172 aircraft, adding a mattress to sleep on and a small steel sink for hygiene reasons, and removing of most of the interior fittings to save weight.

"The important thing, however, was to create a way to refuel," Janet Bednarek, an aviation historian and professor at the University of Dayton, told CNN.

She explained that they set up an extra tank that could be filled from a truck on the ground.

"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.

"It really was a dramatic show of airmanship, because they had to do it at night sometimes and that required some precision flying."

After three failed attempts to break the record for the longest continuous flight, Timm selected John Cook, an airplane mechanic, to be his new co-pilot.

And on 4 December, 1958, they set off.

In order to refuel without landing, they flew the plane very low while a truck winched up a hose, using a pump to transfer the fuel to the aircraft.
Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum

It was all smooth sailing (or flying) at first. Each time they refuelled, they would also get supplies and food. Toilet breaks took place on a foldable camp toilet with the resulting waste being thrown over the desert and the two took turns getting some shut-eye.

However, on day 39, the pump that sent the fuel into the plane’s tanks failed, forcing them to do it manually.

But, they kept going, completing a feat so impressive it's never been equalled.

And, by the time they finally landed, both the pilots and the plane were in pretty bad shape.

There were problems with the cabin heater, the fuel gauge and the landing lights to name a few and the men had to be carried out of the aircraft.

But, Berderneck explained: "The important thing was that the engine kept going, which is really kind of remarkable. It’s a long time to be flying."

However, the bold feat came at a price.

Following the record-breaking flight, Cook told CNN: "Next time I feel in the mood to fly endurance, I’m going to lock myself in a garbage can with the vacuum cleaner running, and have Bob [Timm] serve me T-bone steaks chopped up in a Thermos bottle. That is, until my psychiatrist opens for business in the morning."

Timm passed away in 1976 and Cook died in 1995.

Featured Image Credit: Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum

Topics: Travel, World News, History