Sami Raffa, a 70-year-old retired Saudi pilot is preparing to fly 40,000 kilometers over Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, North America, and parts of the North Pole. He will spend around 40 days flying a single engine plane in a solo flight.
Raffa is waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to finalize his papers to begin the journey.
He tried to make this trip in the 1960s, after he attended flight school in Vienna. The political situation in the Arab World then stopped him from getting an approval from governments.
After retirement, he wanted to do it to fulfill a personal dream, not to break a record.
“All my instructors did it. I always wanted to do it and now is the time,” he told Arab News.
Sami spent the past five years preparing for this atbodyt.
He was supposed to depart in March but had to register the modifications he made on his plane with the FAA and get approval from the manufacturer.
The modifications will allow the plane to fly nonstop over 5,000 kilometers. The airplane is a 1995 single engine high performance, four seated Mooney M20R airplane of the type, which is well equipped for long range navigation and flying. Raffa also added seven GPS devices, extra fuel tanks and safety equipment.
The pilot was born in Makkah, and raised and educated in Vienna, Austria. He flew for Saudi airlines for 37 years.
He joined the national test pilot school for experience in flight test engineering and certification and joined the society of experimental test pilot as an associate member.
“The name of my trip is “Tour of Gratitude.” Through this personal achievement I want to thank everyone who taught me something in my life, even the smallest thing,” said Raffa. To thank them, he wrote down the names of people he met in his life, some of who might not even remember him.
The route goes west starting from Madinah, Jeddah, across the Mediterranean Sea, northwest to Wick in Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, to the state of Maine, and across the United States to the Mojave Desert. Here he joined the national test pilot school.
If the aircraft’s performance proves satisfactory, then he will push toward Hawaii, Honolulu and back to the southeast to Natal, Brazil. He will cross the Atlantic Ocean, northeast bound to Portugal and Spain. From there, a nonstop flight is planned to Madinah, covering a distance of 40,000 kilometers. The number of landings is not to exceed 21 within a time span of 30 to 40 days.
Raffa said other pilots completed the trip in eight days. He explained that winter weather and prevailing winds could strongly influence directions and landings. Therefore he considers the first three legs as a performance test for the airplane. The airplane is equipped with high definition video cams, and Internet access. He will be in touch with his Facebook fans during the trip.
Raffa plans to document his trip and write two books about it. One for people who are interested in the subject. The second would be for experts, on the basics of aircraft structural safety and design and upon performance engineering.
Raffa said that Al-Salem Jonson Controls are the sponsors of his trip and responsible for providing him with his thermal suit and other requirements.