RIP H. Ross Perot

Perot, right, with pilot J.W. Coburn. (Bettman/Corbis)

Born on June 27, 1930 in Texarkana, Texas, Ross Perot is best known as a billionaire businessman and twice-unsuccessful third-party presidential candidate. But Perot entered the annals of aviation history in 1981 when he took part in a world record circumnavigation of the globe by helicopter. In an effort to beat Australian Dick Smith, who had started his own attempt at a round-the-world helicopter flight, Perot purchased a stock Bell 206 LongRanger II for $750,000, christened it Spirit of Texas, and modified the helicopter to hold more fuel, deployable pontoons, and upgraded navigational equipment. With pilot J.W. Coburn, the pair set out from Dallas on September 1 and made 56 refueling stops while crossing 26 countries and flying 26,000 miles before returning to Dallas. One stop was made aboard a container ship in 15-foot seas and 40 mph winds since Russia would not allow the team to land in the Soviet Union. Perot also paid for a Lockheed C-130 and crew to support the flight. The circumnavigation took a total of 246 flight hours at an average ground speed of 117 mph, and an overall average of 35 mph, setting a world record for flight time in a helicopter. The Spirit of Texas now resides at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

(National Air and Space Museum)
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