Two Delta Air Lines pilots have attempted to set a Guinness World Record for the fastest journey by plane through all 48 contiguous states of the United States within 48 hours.
Delta A350 captain Barry Behnfeldt and Delta A321 captain Aaron Wilson, both military veterans, took off on an ambitious journey hoping to inspire future pilots and raise funds for Veterans Airlift Command (VAC), an organization providing free, private air travel for combat-injured veterans.
The duo, who both studied at Bowling Green State University School of Aviation, began their journey on June 4, 2023, from Berrien Springs, Michigan, and succeeded in completing the route in 44 hours and seven minutes, landing in Portland, Maine on June 6, 2023.
They flew in a single-engine Piper Saratoga plane owned by Behnfeldt. While the original plan was to spend between 10 to 30 minutes at each airport, the pilots managed to keep their average time on the ground to eight minutes, except during refueling stops.
Throughout the journey, Behnfeldt, Wilson, and in-flight technician Thomas Twiddy, a former Navy service member, experienced overwhelming support from spectators. One memorable stop was in Coffeyville, Kansas.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I was thinking maybe five to 10 people,” Barry recalled for the Delta Air Lines news hub. “When we pulled in, there were close to 50 people, including several kids. I told Aaron and Thomas, ‘We have to shut down here.’ We decided to make it a fuel stop and spend time with everyone.”
The journey followed a set of strict rules from the Guinness World Records, including that both pilots had to be present in the same aircraft throughout the journey and that each flight had to reach a minimum altitude of 500 feet. Timing began when the plane left the ground in the first state and ended when the final flight landed.
Behnfeldt and Wilson are now waiting for confirmation from Guinness World Records to see if their impressive flight path qualifies as the world record. However, they have already raised $30,000 for the VAC.