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Winds Help Jetliner Circle World in Record 36 Hours

January 31, 1988|PAUL DEAN | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — A United Airlines 747-SP, pushed hard in a 200-m.p.h. jet stream, landed at Boeing Field here Saturday after circling the world in record time.

The jetliner, a long-range variation on the conventional Boeing 747, made the circumnavigation in 36 hours and 54 minutes at an average speed of 624 m.p.h., officials said.

"The flight itself was pretty much routine," said Clay Lacy of Van Nuys, Calif., the United captain who was commander of the flight. "The most impressive thing is that we did it with 144 people on board who were able to sit back, relax and watch movies while being part of a world speed record."

The 100 paying passengers included Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. Each put up $5,000 to go along on the record-breaking flight. Also aboard were journalists, airline administrators and a crew of 18.

Fares Go to Charities

United donated use of the airplane and Boeing, the plane's manufacturer, and other companies underwrote fuel and operating costs for the flight. That freed the $500,000 in fares, said Lacy, for donation to children's charities selected through Friendship Foundation, the nonprofit group Lacy formed to organize the flight.

For their $5,000, the paying passengers dined on lobster, smoked salmon and duck with French Champagne and received souvenir sweaters and jackets. All of which, a flight spokesman said, were designed to ease the potential discomfort of being confined to an airplane for more than 36 hours. Passengers had no time to leave the plane during the quick refueling stops at Athens and Taipei.

"We were very concerned about the potential for boredom," Lacy said. "So we had an exercise cycle on board, books, games, tapes and movies. But they weren't necessary. Shortly after takeoff, the passengers formed into one big party, and that's how it stayed for the rest of the flight."

The airplane, dubbed Friendship One, took off Thursday at 7:45 p.m. It picked up strong westerly jet streams over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and at times, its ground speed was almost 700 m.p.h.

Jet Streams at Peak

"We picked January for the record attempt because that's when the jet streams are at their most powerful in the Northern Hemisphere," Lacy said.

He said that even with a refueling problem in Athens and a minor mechanical delay in Taipei, the flight was on time or ahead of flight plan at all times.

After following a route over the Azores, India, Vietnam and the Hawaiian Islands, Lacy, his crew and passengers were welcomed here by brass bands and a crowd of about 1,000 people.

"From this one flight," foundation spokesman Dick Friel said, "more people now hold the world speed record than if you added together all the past record-holders."

The previous record was set in 1984 by Brooke Knapp, a Los Angeles businesswoman who flew a Grumman Gulfstream jet around the world in 45 1/2 hours at an average speed of 512 m.p.h.

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