ORIGINAL STORY BY LAIRD RANKIN
A record was set and that record still holds.
Bob Timm and John Cook took off in a Cessna 172 from McCarran Field at Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 4, 1958 and didn’t land again until February 7, 1959. They were in the air for 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, and five seconds, having flown 1,558 hours. They may have confined their flight to the Nevada desert, but they covered a distance equal to six times around the world. The fl ight was a publicity stunt sponsored by the Hacienda Hotel in Las Vegas where Timm happened to work.
A man with a passion for flying and a dream of achieving what the flight achieved, Timm convinced his boss to sponsor the flight. “Look at the publicity the hotel will receive,” you can hear him say. The hotel management bought into Timm’s dream.
But, one does not just jump in a plane and take off on such a flight. Modifications to the Cessna were needed. These included removal of the rear seats and replacing them with a mattress and a sink. An automatic pilot was installed. Also, provisions were provided for in-flight oil changes – half the capacity at a time – and refuelling without shutting down the engine.
THE REFUELING CHALLENGE
The Cessna had 47 useable gallons of fuel in the wings, 95 gallons in a belly tank, and was refuelled once a day. To refuel, the plane was flown about 20 feet above an abandoned stretch of highway and a rope was dropped to a fuel truck to bring up a fuel hose. At some point in the flight the fuel truck malfunctioned and its duties were assumed by an open-topped supply vehicle that was originally conceived to supply water, food and other necessities; it was now pressed into service to supply fuel as well, using five-gallon cans hauled up by rope. The pilots took turns flying in four-hour shifts.
In order to prove that the aircraft had remained airborne during the entire period, someone in the same vehicle, using a paint roller, painted the tires white shortly after takeoff. Naturally the tires were checked just before landing to see whether or not the paint was scuffed!
AFTER A BRIEF MOMENT OF FAME…
After this successful flight, the Cessna was returned to normal status, and later imported into Canada by Ed Zalesky of Vancouver, then sold to the Cold Lake Flying Club in Alberta. The plane later went to Faro in the Yukon where it flew for some years. Then the aircraft went to Edmonton and was sold a couple of times to owners there. The next move was to Somme, Saskatchewan, before it went back to Las Vegas, was given its original paint scheme, and now “flies” above the baggage-claim area at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, as part of the Howard Cannon Aviation Museum. A replica of the open-top supply vehicle is also on display. The aircraft’s achievement remains intact.