If you have already captured the speed record for flying round the world in a helicopter, what might your next challenge be?

Texas pilot Ron Bower knows that answer, do it again - this time in the opposite direction.

Visitors at Farnborough will know today whether Bower and his fellow Texan pilot John Williams are successful in their world record-breaking attempt. Bower and Williams fly their Bell 430 into Farnborough this afternoon, having completed their marathon.

Two years ago, Bower, president of Austin Jet, flew solo round the world in a Bell 206B JetRanger. Beginning and ending in Fort Worth, Texas, Bower flew in an easterly direction and set a record time of 24 days. In this new attempt, which began on 17 August at Fairoaks Airport in the UK, the flight has been on a westerly heading against prevailing winds.

Today, the 16th and final day of the schedule, the crew is expected to arrive at Fairoaks at noon, having flown from Copenhagen via Germany and Belgium.

One of the aims of the expedition, is to focus on the safety and reliability of modern helicopters. The Bell 430, with a cruise speed of 140kt, is an ideal vehicle for this.

"It's just a spectacular aircraft. We are only having to carry a handful of spares because the reliability is so good," says Bower.

The expedition has several other purposes, including research. NASA, one of the many sponsors involved, is using wristwatch-like health monitors to record data about both pilots to determine the effects of pilot endurance and sleep deprivation. This has not been done before with rotary-wing pilots and a bed fitted in the rear of the 430 has allowed each of the pilots to take naps during the long, 11-hour daily treks.

How refreshed each of the pilots appears at a scheduled 5.30pm Farnborough press briefing will be a matter of personal pride.

Before setting off, Williams - a Bell test pilot - joked that Bower, being older, would need more of these naps.

"Maybe so, but John, of course, will get more quality sleep because I fly the aircraft so much more smoothly," quipped Bower.





Source: Flight Daily News