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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Pilots Complete Pole-to-Pole Flight

RECORD FLIGHTS

Colin Bodill and Jennifer Murray have become the first pilots to successfully fly from the North to South Pole and back in a helicopter, having completed the 171-day journey on May 23.

The pair took off from Fort Worth Alliance Airport (AFW) in Texas on Dec. 3, 2006 and covered 32,206 nm and flew over 34 countries. It took 101 fuel stops to keep their bright red Bell Helicopter 407 flying.

Murray began flying helicopters 12 years earlier at the age of 54. In 1997, she was the first woman pilot to fly circumnavigate the globe in a helicopter. In 2000, she repeated that accomplishment solo.

"I do plan to be at home," confessed Murray. "And I plan to leave these great records to younger people!"

Bodill also holds a previous record. In 2000, he became the first person to traverse the globe in an ultralight aircraft.

Dressed in bright red flight suits bearing patches from numerous sponsors, Bodill and Murray praised the Bell 407 that Bell donated for the voyage dubbed Polar First. The helicopter "never missed a beat," said Bodill. Both reported that the engine and instruments worked well throughout the trip.

Bodill and Murray were not so lucky on their first pole-to-pole attempt in 2003. Severe blizzard conditions led to the crash of their other Bell 407 58 days into the attempt, leaving them seriously injured and stranded in Antarctica’s below freezing conditions for several days. They encountered similar white-out conditions this time, but said they were "smarter," in reference to their decision to land and sit out the poor conditions.

Proceeds from the trip will go to the SOS Children’s Village, a non-profit organization that assists orphans, abandoned children and disadvantaged families worldwide.

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