Pilots tell of global adventures

Paris Air Show » 2007
June 26, 2007, 4:46 AM

The pilots who recently flew a Bell 407 around the world via the North and South Poles were at the show yesterday to retell how they accomplished the feat. Jennifer Murray, an artist whose pilot husband got her interested in flying at age 55, and Colin Bodill, a career helicopter pilot (currently freelance), arrived back in Fort Worth, Texas, on May 23, after 171 days traveling 32,206 miles over 26 countries, with 101 fuel stops along the way.

The pair were full of praise for Bell and their trusty machine, which “performed faultlessly… starting the first time despite being full of snow for six hours.” The aircraft was also ideal for the two-mile altitude at the South Pole, with its powerful tail rotor allowing takeoffs in 60-knot winds, and for traversing Drake’s Passage to Antarctica.

Approaching the North Pole, the Russian base they were due to land at was “whited-out” before it could be reached and was soon after abandoned as the ice cracked and a snowplow even disappeared into the water below. But the 407 team remained undeterred, even though when they did land in another location they only did so for 15 minutes, such was the risk.

After the North Pole, an original plan to exit into Russia fell through. “We went to Moscow twice, but they’re tightening up on private flights and said it would take another year, so we decided to come out through Norway,” Murray said.

Murray and Bodill are no strangers to setting world records. Murray has already set the world record for the fastest female solo helicopter flight around the world in 2000 and Bodill holds the record for flying around the world in a weight-shift microlight.

More details about their flight can be found on their Web site www.polarfirst.com.

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