ARLINGTON — The Arlington Airport helped 21-year-old pilot Jack Wiegand make aviation history by serving as the penultimate stop on the nearly two-month trip that’s made him the youngest pilot ever to fly solo around the world.
Among the members of the crowd who stood ready to greet Wiegand on the afternoon of Friday, June 28, at Arlington Flight Services was his uncle Mike, who lives just west of the Arlington Airport in Smokey Point.
“My brother Dwight, his father, always encouraged him,” Mike Wiegand said, as Jack interacted with a number of older pilots who now count him as a fellow “world-rounder.”
“We’re all super-proud of him, of course, but what’s struck me, as he’s been interviewed by the press around the world, is how well he’s carried himself. He’s been a great ambassador for his cause, and he’s made solid decisions in doing what’s needed to be done to accomplish his goal. Lots of folks talk about doing things like this, but he actually got it done.”
Not only was Mike Wiegand glad to be able to arrange for fuel at Jack’s planned stop at Adak Island, Alaska, but Mike also expressed his gratitude to Arlington Flight Services for helping Jack translate between American and Japanese fuel octane ratings, since his misreadings of those numbers had given his engine some rough running.
The day before his homecoming to his native Fresno, Calif., Jack Wiegand conceded that the impending completion of his trek felt slightly bittersweet, although the prospect of being able to sleep in his own bed for the first time since he left home on May 2 made him more glad than sad to be wrapping up this portion of his life.
“I didn’t do it for the title,” Jack Wiegand said. “I did it for the adventure and the experience. I’ve always set ambitious goals for myself, so I’ll probably set some other goal soon that I don’t know about yet.”
While Mike Wiegand was impressed by how much his nephew was able to stay in contact with friends and family through social media such as his Facebook page, Jack Wiegand admitted to feeling isolated during extended stretches of his trip, especially when he logged 2,200 miles in a single stretch during the longest leg of his flight, from Kushiro, Japan, to Adak Island, Alaska.
“I touched down in Egypt the day after an American had been stabbed there,” Jack Wiegand said. “I flew over Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Persian Gulf for 1,400 miles, which was a different experience. The bureaucracy in Mumbai, India, was difficult to deal with, but Thailand was probably my easiest stop. Lovely country, really nice people. I’d already traveled quite a bit before this trip, but never to most of the places I went this time. I love traveling, but it’s much more fun with others.”
In one sense, Jack Wiegand was never alone, since almost all of his expenses were covered through third-party billing, thanks to the sponsors from whom he raised $170,000, as he took a semester off from the University of Colorado in Boulder to plan and engage in this trip.
“This is just an amazing, inspiring achievement,” said Geoff Shepherd, president of the Arlington chapter of the Washington Pilots Association. “I hope more young people are encouraged to go into aviation by Jack’s example. This was a childhood dream for him, and he just went ahead and did it.”