Two British-based pilots set off into a blue Texas sky Tuesday on their second attempt to fly around the world via the North and South poles in a helicopter, one of the last great unaccomplished feats of aviation.
The expedition will take over five months, covering around 36,000 nautical miles and making 126 fuel stops in over 30 countries, before coming back to Fort Worth in Texas next May.
“Why do you climb a mountain? It’s all about the challenge,” Jennifer Murray, 66, one of the pair, told Reuters when asked why she had undertaken such an expedition.
Murray, U.S. born but based in Britain, is joined by British helicopter pilot Colin Bodill, who is 55.
During their first attempt in 2003, the pair had a harrowing experience when they crashed in Antarctica 58 days into their journey. Both sustained serious injuries.
“It was pilot error ... in white-out conditions,” Murray told reporters shortly before take-off in a cherry-red Bell 407 helicopter. She said they should have landed sooner when conditions deteriorated and would be more cautious this time.
Fuel will be stored in advance in caches in the more remote polar regions and the pilots will find them using a satellite-based global positioning system (GPS).
One of the longest stretches of the flight -- and one of the most perilous -- will be more than 500 miles over open water between the tip of South America and Antarctica.
After reaching the South Pole, the pair will double-back along the same Antarctic route but will fly over new territory in South America.
The North Pole will be reached via an approach from Canada but the return Arctic journey will take them over Russia.
The expedition will also attempt to raise money for SOS Children’s Villages, a charity which helps orphans.