Tony Aliengena is finally coming home.
After more than 17,000 exhausting miles through eight nations, and a near-disastrous accident in Alaska, Tony 11, is expected to fly into John Wayne Airport today, becoming the youngest pilot to circumnavigate the globe.
Scheduled to meet the entourage at the Martin Aviation facilities are Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley; Eddie Martin, 87, Orange County's pioneer aviator and founder of Martin Aviation; Jan Mittermier, assistant manager of John Wayne Airport, and classmates from St. Margaret's School in San Juan Capistrano. The public is invited.
One of the highlights of the trip that began June 5 was when Tony and his entourage presented a friendship scroll signed by more than 250,000 U.S. schoolchildren to Soviet leaders in Moscow.
In addition to hundreds of hours in the cockpit, there was fishing in Iceland, a visit to Norway's Royal Palace in Oslo, giant mosquitoes in Soviet Asia, and a dinner of salmon and reindeer tongue in Siberia.
Another memory that will not soon be forgotten was the accident when Tony's father, Gary, mistook a taxiway for a runway and crashed their Cessna 210 Centurion during takeoff Monday in a remote Alaskan fishing village. The eight people on board escaped with only a few minor injuries.
"Considering what they've been through, it's incredible that Tony is returning only one day behind schedule," said Guy Murrel, a coordinator for the trip.
The cost of the trip, estimated at $142,000, was borne partially by members of the entourage and by donations to a nonprofit foundation set up to help finance the flight. The organization is run by volunteers and some paid employees who have been working to coordinate what has been dubbed Friendship Flight '89.
On July 4 in the Soviet Union, the Aliengenas, including his parents and 10-year-old sister, Alaina, spoke of how much they missed hot dogs, beer and fireworks.
Tonight, Tony can sleep in his own bed.