On May 17, local property manager Rob DeLaurentis took off from San Diego International Airport in a single-engine Piper PA-46 350P Malibu Mirage plane. If all goes according to plan, he’ll return in a week or two having completed a ’round-the-world solo flight, the first time the trip will be done in this type of plane.
DeLaurentis, whose property management company, Innorev Enterprises, has 300 units in 20 to 25 buildings in San Diego, has only been piloting aircraft for about five years, and on-boarded a load of new technology to make this solo endeavor possible.
He’s currently in American Samoa, and although he said he’s encountered a few snags, the trip has progressed better than even he imagined. And he imagined it would be pretty great.
“The way I got interested in this trip is I had just completed a three-year graduate degree in spiritual psychology,” DeLaurentis said. “For one of the exercises we were encouraged to dream impossibly big and see what they would look like. For me, a childhood passion had always been flying … so my dream was to locate and purchase an aircraft capable of this trip safely, and outfit it for the trans-Atlantic and Pacific crossings and then learn how to fly the way I needed to and learn things I needed to do for the trip.”
The single-engine plane with two turbochargers was outfitted with a special fuel tank for the trip that can hold an extra 140 gallons of fuel for a total of 290 gallons.
It also has a high-frequency radio that allows DeLaurentis to talk over greater distances to air traffic controllers, an electric oil pump inside that enables the pilot to pump oil to the engine while in the air in emergency situations, and airbags to increase the safety of a worse-case situation.
Other advancements include a four-bladed composite propeller with nickel tips that DeLaurentis said would allow the Spirit of San Diego — the name he gave his mode of transportation — to climb faster and get to a cruising speed faster, which means less fuel used.
The body of the plane is covered with a nanoceramic coating to make it more slippery and, hence, faster.
The engine has an electronic ignition, which is rare, and the Garmin 201 avionics platform that allows DeLaurentis’ iPad to talk directly to his Garmin GPS system.
The circumnavigation was originally scheduled to stop in 22 countries but has been bumped up to 24.
All the while, DeLaurentis has continued to manage pieces of his business, albeit with assistance on the homefront.
“My dream is to come back and lecture for a year or so on my flight and the spiritual principals I used and sort of share the dream with other people,” he said. “Not everyone is going to fly a single-engine aircraft around the world, but I’ve been getting emails from people doing things they’ve always wanted to do but needed a little extra encouragement -- everything from going on great hikes to the top of mountains to losing weight to changing jobs -- it’s really been across the board. Just encouraging people to go a little further.”