Ever since Orville bet Wilbur he could squeeze out ten more feet on those first precarious runs at Kitty Hawk, aviators have been setting—and beating—records in the air. Not content with highest, fastest, longest, today’s aviation records include such obscurities as distance goals for RC aircraft and numbers of skydivers attempting a vertical formation.
The organization that compiles this information is the National Aeronautic Association, the official record keeper for aviation in the United States. NAA certified 99 national records last year. Those NAA milestones qualifying as world records were then ratified by the Fdration Aronautique Internationale (FAI). Of these, the “most memorable” were released during Sun ‘n Fun.
Fastest glider over a 500-kilometer (310.7 statute mile) out-and-back course: 158.53 MPH, set by New Zealand’s Keith Essex, landing and departing from the Omarama airport on the South Island. The previous record was 139 MPH.
Fastest speed over a recognized course: 631.8 MPH, set by pilots Ross Oetjen, Tony Briotta and Todd Hicks in a Gulfstream G-500 from Seville, Spain, to Al Bateen Executive in Abu Dhabi, a distance of 3,632 miles. The flight took five hours and 45 minutes. There was no previous record along that route.
Fastest time to climb to 3,000 meters (9,842,52 feet): Less than 100 seconds, set by Daniel Gray over Oxnard, California, airport in a Harmon Rocket IIA. The Harmon Rocket is a clipped-wing RV-4 with a 650-HP rotary engine. The previous record was one minute, 59.5 seconds.
Largest formation sequence, head-down orientation, four formations: 42 skydivers over Ottowa, Illinois. Previous record, set in 2014, was 33 skydivers.
RC model aircraft distance goal and return: 33.9 miles, set by John McNeil along U.S. Route 93 near Majors Place, Nevada. McNeil piloted his RC helicopter from the back of moving pickup truck to a designated turning point 17 miles to the north, and returned. Previous record was set by McNeil in 2016 at 31 miles.
Highest absolute altitude for a glider: 74,334 feet, set by pilots Jim Payne and Tim Gardner over El Calafate, Argentina, aboard Perlan 2. The previous record was set in the same aircraft by the same pilots one month earlier with an ascent to 63,808 feet.