One airplane, two pilots, and 64 days of non-stop flight! This might sound impossible. After all, how could one stay up in the air for over 2 months? But 2 pilots did that.
It all started with an advertisement in 1958. The Hacienda hotel was far away from all the other resorts and it wasn’t as successful as much as the owners of the hotel expected. They were running out of advertisement ideas and just then a slot machine mechanic, Robert Timm, came up with a unique idea, that is to make the longest flight in history, without ever touching the ground. And the plane would have the hotel’s name on it.
The goal was to beat the previous record, which was 50 days. In exchange for $100,000 (that Robert got from the owners for the project), he got the hotel’s name written on the plane––– “Hacienda.”
For this historical flight, a Cesena 172 was bought, and Robert Timm and John Cook were the pilots. But, a regular small plane won’t able to achieve what was intended so they made some changes. The interior of the plane was adjusted by adding a mattress so that the pilots could take turns taking rest in 4-hour intervals. A sink was added too so that the pilots could keep themselves clean. The engine was also replaced with a new one which was able to hold more fuel.
They took off on December 4, 1958. At first, they flew only over Las Vegas just in case they had to land. But later, they started to fly around the deserts of California and Arizona.
Since they had to stay in the air for more than 50 days without ever landing at all, they had to find a way to refuel. But they didn’t do this with solar panels or air-to-air fueling. They did it from a pickup truck. They flew alongside the pickup truck, matching its speed, to refuel the plane.
And at the same time, they got their meals that were made by the Hacienda hotel chefs. This process took only 3 minutes, and they did it twice a day.
But this was not as easy as said. Sometimes, the noise from the engine, isolation, and exhaustion took a toll on John and Bob. In fact, on the 35th day, the plane nearly crashed after one of them had fallen asleep. Luckily, the autopilot was on.
On the 39th day, the generator failed, and as a result, they didn’t have lights, heat, or autopilot. But they didn’t give up, they were just a few days away from beating the record!
On the 50th day, which is January 23, 1959, Hacienda broke the record for the longest and continuous flight ever made in history. But regardless of the physical and mental challenges they faced, they wanted to make sure that the record would last. They managed to break it by 2 more weeks, making it 64 days in total!
On 7th February 1959, after 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, and 150,000 miles, the Hacienda landed.