High-flyer Ryan Campbell's whirlwind year

BEING named the 2013 Bega Valley Shire Citizen of the Year caps a whirlwind year for Ryan Campbell in which he broke two world records - being the youngest person to fly solo around the world and the first teenager to do so.

However, the venture was about more than breaking records. 

It was about having a dream and then turning that dream into a reality.

Ryan has aviation in his blood and his grandfather, father, two brothers and his uncle, Andy Campbell, have all been involved in flying.

When, at age 17, he told his parents, Joanne and Lindsay, he wanted to create aviation history and promote aviation by flying solo around the world he wasn’t sure how they would take it, but, to his delight, they encouraged him to follow his dream.

So began two years of preparation, moulded around his commitments at the Sapphire Coast Anglican College where his teachers described him as being “committed to high standards and values who achieved a sound standard across a range of disciplines, including academic, practical and creative”.

An important part of his preparation was raising the $250,000 needed to rent and equip an aircraft he eventually named “The Spirit of the Sapphire Coast” and to plan the solo world flight.

He also learnt about sponsorship and building a local “mateship-based” team.  

He is still stunned by his community support, including a fundraiser organised by the Frogs Hollow Aero Club that raised $25,000 in one night.

“Hundreds of people were involved in fundraising and supporting the flight and thousands of people were interested and followed via my website and social media.  It was beyond anything I had imagined,” he said

“I couldn’t have done it without all that support.”

Indeed, when Ryan talks about his adventure he usually uses the pronoun “we” rather than “I”, even when referring to the time he spent in his plane, which was definitely a solo event.

His supporters included some high-profile sponsors such as entrepreneur and pilot Dick Smith, Telstra and too many kind businesses and people to name in one go. 

He also had mentors such as Ken Evers who made a successful around the world flight in 2010.

He also learnt about public speaking, media skills and how to engage other people in his dream, as well as practical skills required to fly such long distances over water such as navigation and emergency procedures

The actual flight began in Wollongong on June 30, 2013, and took 70 days to complete.

He travelled more than 24,000 nautical miles, involving 180 hours flying time, and made 34 stops in 15 countries on four continents.

The numbers fall smoothly from his tongue. 

Obviously he has told this story before.

What he remembers best about the flight was crossing the Pacific Ocean, visiting the world’s biggest air-show, AirVenture in Osh Kosh, USA, and landing at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, the very scene of the Wright brothers’ first flight.

He will also remember flying over icebergs, the tropics and castles as well the scary weather and the storms.

Most importantly, he will remember it as a life-changing lesson and one he can use to motivate other young people to face their fears and follow their dreams.

He also plans to encourage young people to learn to fly and to have their own adventures.

Now that Ryan is no longer a teenager – he turned 20 on January 13 – he is facing some new challenges.

He has moved away from his parents’ home in Broadwater to Newcastle where he has a new job, flying a twin engine patient transport plane.

He will also be writing the book he has been contracted to produce this year, keeping corporate speaking engagements and considering new adventures.

For more information about Ryan’s big year visit his website, www.teenworldflight.com

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