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Guinness Says Ho-Hum to Tony's World Flight

July 22, 1989|MARIA NEWMAN | Times Staff Writer

In the fast-changing and crowded world of aviation milestones, Tony Aliengena's name will be entered in the National Aviation Assn.'s books as the youngest pilot to circumnavigate the globe.

There was no such category before. He is breaking nobody's record.

This is not to say that his accomplishment is not worth noting, but editors at the Guinness Book of World Records said they passed on the San Juan Capistrano youngster's feat because there are so many young people clambering over each other to establish or break previous records set by other child pilots.

"We heard about that youngster," Cyd Smith, assistant editor for the Guinness Book of World Records in New York City, said about Tony. "But we don't keep records on young aviators anymore. There are a lot of other youngsters who fly at that age. But they're not flying nonstop, and they're obviously not flying alone. They're flying with instructors and such. There was just no point in the category anymore."

Indeed, Tony himself said two years ago that it was news of an 11-year-old Texas boy's record-setting, transcontinental flight that prompted him to try the same thing last year. He did, and then his name replaced that of John Kevin Hill as the youngest person to make that trip.

Hill is 13 now and living in Arlington, Tex. Told that Tony was about to arrive back home, Hill said he is happy for the California aviator, but conceded that he had not been following Tony's adventure.

At the headquarters of the National Aviation Administration in Washington, June Gretchner, assistant secretary to the contests and record board, flipped through the pages of the record book, looking for the category into which Tony's trip might fit. She couldn't find one.

She said the organization is widely recognized as the official recorder of the competitive and elusive accomplishments set in a variety of aviation adventures, in everything from hot-air balloons to Lear Jets to tiny two-seaters.

In the NAA's record books are myriad names of people who claim to have made the fastest trip from one city to another, the longest nonstop flight from point A to point B, or the longest trip in a hot-air balloon, and so on. There are categories by size of craft, type of craft, age of pilot, geographical distance, speed and so on.

Countless numbers of people have circumnavigated the globe in airplanes, she said, but the one everyone remembers is the nonstop, non-refuel, round-the-world-trip on the Voyager by Jeana Yeager and Dick Rutan.

Nevertheless, Tony is not only establishing the record as the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe, but he is also the first American to fly across the Soviet Union.

Some local pilots, however, have questioned the significance of the record because Tony had not done it alone.

Guy Murrel, who piloted one of the chase planes that accompanied Tony early in the journey, objected to criticism by other pilots who said it is Tony's father who was planning the strategy for the trip.

Tony's accomplishment, he replied, requires a "mature enough kid to handle the responsibility of flying an aircraft. It's not just a casual thing to do."

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