Friendship Flight: Tony Circles the Globe : Tony Is Expected to Land at John Wayne Today to End Flight
Tony Aliengena, flying a borrowed plane and eager to return to pursuits more common to children his age, arrived in Seattle on Friday--just one flight away from Orange County and a landing that will make him the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe.
After crossing seven countries and 18,000 miles on his Friendship Flight at the controls of a Cessna 210 Centurion, the San Juan Capistrano youngster is scheduled to land at John Wayne Airport at 2 p.m. today to wrap up his global journey.
“I want to ride my bike, buy a cat and hopefully meet with President Bush to give him the friendship scroll,” Tony said, referring to a huge sheet of paper signed by thousands of Soviet children.
“But really I don’t want the trip to end,” he added. “I like flying every day.”
Although Tony and his entourage seemed upbeat, six weeks of travel was taking its toll on the entourage, traveling in Tony’s plane and a King Air chase plane flown by Hanford, Calif., orthopedic surgeon Lance Allyn.
For the first time during the long trip, Tony’s and Allyn’s planes split up on the leg from Anchorage to Juneau over a dispute between Tony’s father, Gary Aliengena, and Allyn over the safest route to Juneau.
After flying from Nome to Anchorage Thursday morning, the elder Aliengena wanted to push on to Juneau as had been planned.
But Allyn, taking a more cautious approach, preferred a more inland route through Canada because of heavy fog and limited visibility along the coastal route to Juneau.
Aliengena told Allyn that he was exaggerating the danger about fly
ing the coastal route and argued that it was important for the Friendship Flight to stay on schedule.
“I just don’t feel comfortable with the approach,” Allyn said. “I don’t like the weather.”
“I like to think of myself as a cautious pilot, a calculating pilot,” Allyn said later. “I don’t like to take chances.”
Frustrated, Aliengena, Tony and three others took off anyway with plans to meet Allyn in Seattle.
Took Inland Route
Allyn, meanwhile, took the inland route.
Meeting in Seattle, Aliengena conceded that the landing in Juneau was “the nastiest of this whole trip. We didn’t see the lights until the last minute, just before we were going to abort. That took Tony to about the limit of his ability.”
Aliengena said the dispute with Allyn was a professional one, among pilots.
“He went his way and we went our way,” he said. “Everyone flies his own way.”
Allyn said he was being extra cautious about the final legs of the trip in the aftermath of the crash of the original Friendship Flight Cessna 210 in Alaska.
Tony’s father was at the controls when the plane crashed in flames on takeoff from a remote fishing village during a short side trip. Of the eight people on board, only two suffered minor injuries.
Federal investigators said that Aliengena could be cited for carrying eight people on board when there were seats and seat belts for only six. Aliengena later conceded that he had mistaken the taxiway for the runway and simply “ran out of runway” when trying to take off.
Losing Plane the Low Point
Losing his plane, Aliengena said Friday, was the only low point of an otherwise good journey.
“I have a heaviness in my heart because I don’t have my plane,” he said. “But I wouldn’t change anything. It has been great for my family. It’s been a wonderful trip.”
Landing in Juneau, Tony had to negotiate the borrowed single-engine Cessna 210 between snow-capped mountain peaks to the airport along Gastineau Channel.
The boy also was hampered by a faulty autopilot.
“It was very, very difficult. I would have never flown it by myself,” the father said. “The damned autopilot on this plane doesn’t work. It’s a ton of work when you have to do it manually.”
Shortly after his arrival in Juneau, Tony headed with some local youths for the video games in the airport lobby.
“I don’t think the trip has changed me much,” he told the Juneau Empire newspaper. “I feel the same.”
The Aliengenas left Juneau under rainy skies late Friday morning. They stopped briefly to refuel in Ketchikan before heading off to Seattle.
Will Stop in Oakland
The group planned to make a stop in Oakland today before landing at John Wayne Airport.
The autopilot on the borrowed plane has not worked since they took off from Nome early Thursday, the father said.
“We tried to get it repaired in Anchorage, but we couldn’t get it fixed,” he said, adding that they plan to continue with the plane, steering it manually, for the rest of the trip.
“We want to get home,” Aliengena said.
Tony made much of the trip in the first plane with a broken autopilot, but it was fixed in Norway.
His father said the 3 1/2-hour flight from Anchorage late Thursday was uneventful, except for the difficult landing.
“It was a beautiful ride,” he said. “There are some substantial mountains up here--the largest we’ve seen so far.”
* TONY’S ARRIVAL
Dignitaries are expected to welcome the young pilot home and the public is invited. Page 3
* ON THE RECORD
While the Guinness Book of World Records decided to pass on Tony’s flight, a new category was invented for him in another record book. Page 3