The plane that stayed in the air flying for 64 days, 22 hours and 18 minutes
In 1958, two pilots over a desert in the southwestern United States achieved a feat that to this day has not yet been surpassed: fly a plane two months in a row without any break. This is the story of the Cessna 172 and its two drivers Bob Timm and John Cook. Today records in the air are somewhat different.
In the early decades of the twentieth century for years aircraft pilots have been establishing air resistance records. The idea was to see who could get the most efficient flight without having to refuel. However, in 1923 the milestone of refueling for the first time in the air was achieved. With 37 hours and 15 minutes of flight, he began a new race to see who would stay in the air the longest, consuming all the fuel that was necessary.
During the following years the 37 hours were exceeded until began to be counted in days and not in hours. By 1935 the record was already 27 days, 5 hours and 34 minutes. Fourteen years later, in 1949, the record was already 46 days and 20 hours. But it went up even more, in 1958 the record was 50 days in the air, with a total of 1,200 hours and 16 minutes.
Two months without touching land
Since then, only once more has that figure been exceeded. It was in 1958 too and the two pilots who were on the plane flew non-stop for 64 days, almost 65 days in fact. It all started when Bob Timm, a slot machine mechanic at the Hacienda Hotel in Las Vegas, had an idea. He proposed to the hotel owner to sponsor an endurance flight with the plane. With the name of the hotel painted on the side of the plane, the owner agreed to the idea.
Before taking flight, Bob Timm first purchased a Cessna 172 and modified it for the feat. These modifications included removing the entire interior, adding an in-flight refueling platform, or even a small “bathroom” so the two pilots could clean up easily. With the plane ready, they made different test flights to see how the plane behaved. Finally, On December 4, 1958, the two pilots took off with the Cessna 172 from McCarran Field in Las Vegas.
Obviously the plane needed refueling, as did the pilots for food and water. For it the plane descended twice a day near a highway in Las Vegas without ever touching the ground. At that time, a tanker truck lined up with the plane and through a special platform supplied fuel to the plane in flight. This is how the pilots also got food. The refueling process was carried out 128 times during the 64 days of flight.
As the days went by the plane began to weaken and suffer failures. Essentially it was up and running for two months, so it was certainly quite a feat that it didn’t break apart sooner. The pilots for their part were also accumulating fatigue (they slept, but in interrupted hours and in the noisy plane) and stress.
This is how the two pilots they spent Christmas and New Years on the plane and flying over Nevada. By January 23 they had already broken the previous record, but they stayed in the air for two more weeks until February 7, 1959. It was at that moment that they landed back at McCarran Field in Las Vegas, thus completing 64 days, 22 hours and 18 minutes of flight.