48 States in 48 Hours | Aviation


For Barry Behnfeldt, a Delta Air Lines pilot, the idea to break a Guinnes World Record started out as somewhat lighthearted. A first officer on one of his flights mentioned that a Detroit flying club had attempted to set a record by landing in all 48 contiguous states in less than 48 hours, “and I thought, ‘I wonder what this might look like,’ so I got out ForeFlight and started putting dots on the map.”

Behnfeldt quickly saw that the project was achievable in his Piper Saratoga, so he put together a presentation and invited some pilot friends to his home to recruit them. They were enthusiastic. Two friends—fellow pilot Aaron Wilson and A&P Thomas Twiddy—joined Behnfeldt’s aircrew. Several more served as coordinators on the ground. 

Barry Behnfeldt waves from the air in a selfie he took during the 48N48 flight [courtesy 48N48/Barry Behnfeldt]

The trip took a while to plan. Behnfeldt wanted to aim for the flight to take place during, or close to, the summer solstice, “because you want to maximize the number of daylight hours you’re flying. And let’s be real—a single-engine airplane has its limitations. Things could go bad, where the fan stops turning and you need to find a landing spot. It’s going to be advantageous to have that happen in the daytime, so you can actually see what you’re going to land in.”

But when he looked up the 2023 solstice, he found the timing coincided with the new moon, reducing nighttime visibility. Instead, he chose the timing for a June 4 departure to line up with the full moon, and ensured that all of the team’s flying over the Rocky Mountains would happen during daylight hours. 

The travel times posted by the crew on social media after the event [courtesy 48N48/Barry Behnfeldt]

Leaning on Behnfeldt’s experience as a Delta captain, the crew came up with a carefully orchestrated system of checklists and callouts to ensure safety, particularly on some of the shorter legs where the workload of…

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