Friday, March 01, 2013

Final Reflections on Flying Around the World

This trip has come to an end and I am now at home with Helen reflecting on the adventure. In a word, it was AMAZING. Perhaps faster than I would have preferred but what a way to make a living. First a few closing photo's.

I gave my final lecture on the jet while flying from Egypt to Fes, Morocco. It was called "A Natural History of Oil in the Middle East". Here is a picture of the lecture set-up on the jet. We have a flight engineer who helps us with the equipment. I attach my iPad to a port at the lecture station, which feeds my images to the overhead TV monitors. In addition, my lectures and slides, previously downloaded to every passengers' own iPad (provided by TCS as a trip amenity) are viewable on each  individual iPad. It works really well but there are some limitaions - I cannot show slides taken just prior from our previous stops - the lectures are "canned" so to speak well in adbvance of the trip.

Each passenger listens to the lectures on their provided set of Bose headphones (this they must return at the end of the trip). Sometimes it only looks as if everyone is asleep while we lecture. Actually, most people were awake and I took this photograph before I started lecturing. This trip was very fast-paced and getting some sleep in the seats is a must on some flights.

Final runway shot in Fes, Morocco. It rained hard the day before - sorry no pictures of the medieval medina from this trip - but the sun was shinning on this the final day of the trip.

A run-off swollen river in northwest Morocco

The port city of Tangier with the Strait of Gibraltar located inconspicuously in the background

A wider view of Tangier and Cape Spartel to the left. In 1989, I visited Tangier and took a road trip to Cape Spartel, the very northwest corner of the continent of Africa.

We were required to make a technical stop in the Azores Islands, three hours from Morocco. This is because Fes is not deemed to have international security to the standards that our own TSA requires. So we touched down for 90 minutes, had all of our luggage removed, picked out individually then walked 90 feet to another counter where it was reloaded on the jet. For all of that I got a quick look at the coast of the island group.

The pattern of settlement in a place called Florida. After a seven hour flight from the Azores we touched down in the place where we had started some 21 days before.

Were we changed by such an experience? I know I was, but I also observed people who traveled with me and for whatever reason could not escape the worldview that had created around them. Some people saw India and their first inclination was, "How can we get 1.2 billion people to be consumers like we are". It is not in my nature to see something different and want to change it, even if I might be able to make it just a little bit better.

Some statistics on the trip:

We traveled 27,476 nautical miles by private jet. This comes out to be 31,540 statute (or regular) miles. If you add the 3,834 statute miles I flew from Flagstaff to Orlando and back, I completed a total of over 35,000 miles on this journey.

There was 67 hours of flying on the private jet in 21 days

We crossed the equator four times and each tropic line (Capricorn and Cancer) twice

We visited ten counties: Peru, Chile, Samoa, Australia, Cambodia, India, Tanzania, Egypt, Morocco, and the USA. I went to Cambodia and Jaipur India for the first time.

We flew over the Caribbean Sea, the South Pacific Ocean, the Coral Sea, the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Arafura Sea, the Timor Sea, the Banda Sea, the Celebes Sea, the South China Sea, the Andaman Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.
We used 82,094 gallons of jet fuel. This comes out to a little less than 1,000 gallons per passenger in 21 days. Our carbon footprint was huge, only slightly offset by the wads of cash we infused into the economies of the ten different countries.

Our crew aboard Flight TOM 989 made a video of their experience on the trip and you can view it here. Spectacular.

I gave five lectures on this trip, each well received. Some people learned for the first time that the continents drift about the surface of the planet through time.

I learned that the earth really is round - each morning we put the pointy end of the jet towards the west and ate up miles at the average rate of about 450 per hour. At sunset, our jet was flying into the sunlight. I started in Orlando and ended up in Orlando. The world is round.

I learned that clouds have shapes, colors and textures beyond imagination. My favorite thing on whole trip was watching clouds from 36,000 feet! 

I learned patience, flexibility, and tolerance - thanks to our expedition leader Micheline Place who schooled us of this on the first night. I never forgot her words of wisdom.

I listened to fellow lecturer Barry Lopez who told us that the reason we travel was to share our experiences with others - spouses, children, grandchildren, great grand-children, friends, lovers, acquaintances, strangers - anyone who wants to hear about this beautiful home called earth

I cannot wait for the next trip on the jet - Cape to Cape, January, 2014. Stay tuned.


  1. Awesome once again, Wayne. Well stated. Sharing your experiences is more valuable than you know.

  2. )))((((((

  3. You should post your thoughts on the round earth over at the Flat Earth Society forum, they'll try to tell you you only "thought" you went around a round earth. I have found many hours of entertainment over there as of late. It's amazing what explanations people come up with to describe things like sunrise/sunset, seasons, travel, Antarctica, etc for a flat earth "model"

  4. I saw your lecture last year at the Grand Canyon Association meeting.

    [quibble]"Straight of Gibraltar" should be "Strait of Gibraltar"[/quibble]

    Wish I could have gone ...


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