MERIDEN— The 48N48 flight crew appears to have pulled off a world record, landing a small plane in 48 contiguous states in under 48 hours, which included a very brief stop at Meriden Markham Airport Tuesday afternoon.
“This is exciting, it's not something that you see everyday,” said Tim Coon, Meriden city manager. “And it gives us another chance to show off the great little airport that we have here.”
Barry Behnfeldt, president and primary pilot of 48N48, never thought about setting a world record until a conversation with another pilot piqued his interest.
“I immediately got on my flight planning application and started planning this thing out and connecting the dots across the country,” he added. “Within a day, I knew it was possible.”
The flight team consisted of Behnfeldt, Aaron Wilson, the second pilot and director of operations, and Thomas Twiddy, the inflight technician and director of maintenance. The team took off in a single-engine, six-seat airplane at 3 a.m. Sunday morning from an airport in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
“They headed west, came southeast and then up to the Northeast,” said Constance Castillo, manager of Meriden Markham Airport. “We’re central in Connecticut and the (previous) airport that they landed at was Westchester (New York) so they were trying to do the most direct route to hit every state.”
The crew was due to land at Markham Tuesday afternoon from 2 to 2:30 p.m. but was delayed due to the weather.
“I was nervous because of the weather. There were thunderstorms and this haze and fog is really unusual,” Castillo said. “If they needed to do an instrument approach they could have, but we were kind of hoping that they didn't have to; that would have added extra time.”
The plane could be seen flying towards the airport landing at 4:15 p.m. Castillo and another airport employee directed the plane down the runway while bystanders looked on, recording the event on their phones.
“Two of our tenants have similar planes, 1980 Saratoga, so they were both present,” Castillo said. “I made sure that they could make it.”
Coon said it was very cool watching them land.
“We had been tracking them online all morning and watching where they were going so it was fun and a great experience to know that they have been to almost every state in the U.S. about the time they got here,” he added.
Twiddy hopped out of the plane to obtain the necessary signatures.
“I had a sigh of relief when they landed,” Castillo said. “And then taking off and heading on to the next state was great. Their next stop was Rhode Island.”
Though they were 2 hours behind schedule landing at Markham, Castillo said they were still on track to break the record.
“They left an 8-hour buffer,” she said.
Meriden Markham Airport was not their original stop for Connecticut.
“They had actually chosen Windham Airport, but they couldn’t guarantee somebody would be there,” she added. “So they called a couple weeks ago and they said ‘we just require that somebody is there on the ground when we land to sign all the documents. We’re going to be there for less than 10 minutes,’ and I said I’d be here.”
Castillo was also super excited because she was able to sign the plane.
“What an opportunity; lucky for us," she said. “We’re really proud to be a part of the Guinness Book of World Records and it’s an aeronautical record as well.”
Behnfeldt and Wilson estimated their world record-setting, 5,008-mile journey across the country would take roughly 39 hours and 57 minutes to complete, barring any unforeseen mechanical issues or inclement weather conditions. This accounted for the 10-minute stops and five fuel stops expected to take about 20 minutes each.
“He had all the logistics and everything figured out,” Wilson said. “Flying across the country in a small airplane is something I’ve always wanted to do, so I was immediately sold on the idea. I didn’t have any hesitation about saying yes.”
48N48 set out not only to earn a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, but to raise money for Veterans Airlift Command, which provides free, private air transportation to our nation’s combat injured veterans for medical or other compassionate purposes through a national network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots.
They also set out to commemorate the first powered flight, which took place in Ohio, known as the U.S. birthplace of aviation, as well as to promote general aviation as a whole and inspire the next generation of pilots. The team also promoted the Bowling Green State University School of Aviation, one of the fastest growing aviation schools in Ohio. The crew’s two pilots are alumni of the university.
“Maybe someone out there will see what we’re doing and it’ll spark their interest in becoming a pilot,” said Behnfeldt. "Even better, maybe it'll encourage them to consider the aviation program at BGSU."
They ended up completing their journey in 44 hours and 7 minutes, touching down in Portland, Maine Tuesday evening. Now they will submit the data to Guiness World Records to make the ruling.
“One of the most exciting things about this has been the support we’ve received from friends, family and our communities,” said Behnfeldt, who started flying lessons at Henry County Airport in Ohio at age 16. “I like seeing the excitement around this. Henry County, Ohio, may be a small, rural community, but it’s a cool place. We could put it on the map with a Guinness World Record.”
For more information visit their website at https://48n48.org/