The first fliers around the world were Army Air Corps Lts. Lowell Smith and Erik Nelson. Their 1924 flight was a hopscotch by biplane that took almost six months.
Then came circumnavigations by Wiley Post and Air Force bombers and a stick airplane named Voyager. Last year, a stock business jet trimmed the record to under two days.
Today, Clay Lacy of Van Nuys, a captain for United Airlines, will take off from Seattle's Boeing Field and attempt to become the latest and the fastest around this old and well-crossed world.
He wants to make the 23,000-mile flight in 40 hours.
Lacy, 56, will be at the controls of Friendship One, a 600-m.p.h. Boeing 747SP donated by United. He will depart Seattle at 7 tonight. There will be fast refueling stops at Athens and Taipei, and Lacy should be landing in Seattle at 8 a.m. Saturday.
And if he earns the record, it will be shared with a 14-member crew, from co-pilots to cabin attendants, and 100 hardy passengers, mostly from Los Angeles. The passengers have shelled out $5,000 apiece (proceeds going to children's charities) for the privilege of eating, sleeping and bathing inside an airplane for almost two days.
To kill the boredom, there will be exercise cycles and video games on board. To ease fatigue, passengers will be seated in an enlarged first-class area with tourist sections converted into sleeping areas. To untangle cramps . . . well, that must be done aboard. Passengers will not be allowed to leave the airplane during refueling.
Said passenger Gary Wales of Woodland Hills: "We'll be flying around the world and traveling 23,000 miles without once visiting an airport gift shop."