YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

FRIENDSHIP FLIGHT: Tony Circles the Globe : Reporter's Notebook : Tony, Entourage: Not Always One Big, Happy Family

July 24, 1989|JIM CARLTON | Times Staff Writer

When 11-year-old Tony Aliengena of San Juan Capistrano landed his single-engine plane at John Wayne Airport on Saturday, completing his record-setting flight around the world, all 13 members of his entourage hugged, shook hands and promised to keep in touch.

Things had not always been so harmonious on their grueling, seven-week trip together. Although everyone parted friends at the conclusion of the flight, the tension of living in close quarters for so long led to occasional outbursts and sharp words.

Adult members of the entourage soon tired, for example, of being playfully punched and kicked by Tony, his 10-year-old sister, Alaina, and Tony's 11-year-old pen pal, Roman Tchermenykh.

After being struck once too many times by Alaina while flying in a chase plane, Shawn Hardin, a Los Angeles film maker along on the trip, chastised the little girl so severely that she buried her face in a Mickey Mouse doll and would not speak to him for the rest of the flight.

Many of the adults, incidentally, have no children of their own and were not used to living with their shenanigans.

The children also fought constantly with one another, especially Roman and Alaina. Those two got along so poorly while sitting next to one another on the chase plane that they had to be separated. Tony was not above joining in the fray himself and at times became so upset with his pen pal that the two refused to sit together at dinner or even acknowledge one another's presence.

But being children, all three quickly made up and scampered off to some new fun together at the earliest opportunity.

There was also tension between the adults, especially between Tony's father, Gary Aliengena, and Lance Allyn, a Hanford, Calif., surgeon who was piloting a chase plane. The tensions were rooted in fundamental differences between the two men as private pilots: Aliengena, 39, is a pilot who does not think twice about flying into bad weather; Allyn, 46, is a much more cautious pilot who checks and rechecks weather charts before deciding whether to fly.

Almost always, Allyn followed Aliengena's lead, despite reservations about the weather. Responsible for carrying much of the entourage's luggage, Allyn also pushed his plane's weight to the limit, even though he grumbled about doing so.

It was not until Anchorage, Alaska, that Aliengena and Allyn differed so severely on flying conditions that the two parted company briefly. After an angry, loud exchange over the wisdom of flying a coastal route into Juneau, Alaska, under inclement weather conditions Allyn stalked off and flew a separate, inland route through Canada. Aliengena directed his son down the coastal route.

Aliengena was the focal point of other tensions within the group as it traveled through the Soviet Union. He was often referred to as "boss" by the others because of his leadership of the trip, and some others in the entourage bristled when he repeatedly admonished them for tardiness in keeping to the schedule.

Aliengena became so stern on the subject of timeliness that he soon resorted to just leaving tardy entourage members behind. This forced the others to take a taxi to wherever Aliengena and his family were headed.

Allyn, who was left behind a few times because he was making last-minute checks on his plane, lost his temper in the coastal port of Magadan, U.S.S.R., when Aliengena directed a tour bus driver to leave without him and some of the others. Allyn, a Times reporter and members of the Los Angeles film crew showed up 10 minutes late.

"I've never been treated so rudely in my life," Allyn chafed as he stood in the Magadan fog with a camera dangling from his neck.

Later, Aliengena explained that he had to be tough on the group because the Soviet officials sponsoring his trip through the country had assigned him an extremely tight schedule.

"And I've got three kids I've got to get ready," he said then. "If they can get ready in time, everybody else should be able to."

Both Aliengena and his wife, Susan, also tired of the relentless filming of their every move by the independent film crew. Gary Aliengena finally lashed out in the coastal village of Okhotsk, U.S.S.R., telling the crew members off when they followed him onto a bus for a night of salmon fishing with his son Tony. During the next fishing opportunity, Aliengena proclaimed within earshot of all others, "I'm going fishing--just with my family."

Aliengena later said that he had grown weary of having his family under the camera's unwavering glare for so many weeks and that he craved a return to privacy and anonymity.

Los Angeles Times Articles