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Never too late to circle the globeNever too late to circle the globe

A Wyoming pilot is planning to circle the globe in his Embraer Phenom 300 light jet just as the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer prepares to celebrate 50 years of bringing pilots’ dreams to life.

Lance Mortensen prepares to round the globe single-pilot in his Embraer Phenom 300 jet, accompanied by Natasha Hawkins and here displaying "bon voyage" greetings from well-wishers at Embraer's Melbourne, Florida facility. Photo courtesy of Embraer.

Lance Mortensen will depart May 15 from Alpine Airpark on a flight scheduled to conclude in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, during EAA AirVenture in July. It will be the first time an Embraer airplane appears on the list of earthrounding aircraft, he said.

A builder of luxury homes who started flying at age 54, Mortensen, now 66, said the flight will become “the next great milestone” in his aviation experience as he flies the single-pilot light jet on his first ocean crossing and across Europe and Asia, accompanied by his girlfriend Natasha Hawkins. On some legs of the approximately 83-hour flight route they will be joined by friends, he said.

“The excitement builds each day as it gets closer and closer and you realize you’re going,” he said in a May 8 telephone interview.

A latecomer to the aviation party, Mortensen has been making up for lost time. He took his private pilot checkride on a day in 2007, had lunch, and started working on his instrument rating. He knocked out those two efforts back-to-back by flying six days a week for two and a half months while renting an apartment in Pompano Beach, Florida, where he was doing his training.

Mortensen bought a Cirrus single-engine airplane and an Aviat Husky taildragger, building 1,200 hours of flight time before upgrading to a Cessna Mustang jet, and after 1,000 hours more flying, the Phenom 300.

Embraer claims honors for the Phenom 300 as “the best-selling light business jet in the world seven years in a row,” an aircraft that “made waves as the fastest, most efficient and longest-range single-pilot aircraft in the market.” That range roughly doubles the specification of Mortensen’s previous jet, opening him to the idea of becoming a member of the community of aviators known as Earthrounders. That’s when he checked a database of “RTW” (round-the-world) aircraft and didn’t see any Embraer entries, he said.

The son and grandson of military pilots, Mortensen is wistful that neither lived to see him breathe new life into the family’s flying tradition.

For Embraer, he said, “it’s kind of a special deal” that he is making the trip and plans to touch down in Oshkosh just days before the company marks a milestone of its own: On Aug. 19, Embraer will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, and observes on its website that “over five decades, we have produced more than 8,000 aircraft, exported to more than 70 countries, employed around 20,000 people in 30 offices and factories around the world, but, above all, we have achieved the dreams of many.”

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Around the World Flight, People, International Travel

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