Flight in History, in a C-172...
on a contract job, I flew an average of
about five hours a day. There were
stretches lasting several days when I'd
be aloft for over ten hours, landing just
once for fuel. If the weather was bad,
there would be a break, or a short flight
of two or three hours. Most pilots do
what they do because they love the work.
But after a few days of non-stop ten-hour
flights, it gets a bit gruelling. The
noise, heat, vibration, mental and
physical fatigue can be really tough on
the mind and body.
think that's difficult, imagine spending
over two months in a Cessna 172, flying
twenty four hours a day, without even
landing for fuel. That's exactly what two
pilots did back in 1958 in the California
and Nevada desert. Bob Timm and John Cook
set a world endurance record, remaining
airborne for just under 65 days. It was a
publicity flight, sponsored by the
Hacienda Hotel in Las Vegas.
at the Hacienda, and he had the passion
for flying, along with a dream of setting
a world record by staying airborne for
longer than any other pilot in history.
He convinced his boss to sponsor the
flight, reasoning it would bring a lot of
publicity to the hotel.
Bob Timm, actor Preston Foster &
Hacienda owner Doc Bayley.
Cessna 172 was purchased, then modified
for the flight. Although the Continental
engine was basically untouched, two oil
systems, filters, and a 95 gallon fuel
tank were installed. The oil could be
changed and the plane refuelled without
shutting down the engine. Except for the
pilot seat, the interior was gutted, then
re-done to include a mattress and a sink.
The right side door was collapsible,
providing access to the exterior and
enabling the co-pilot to operate a winch
for bringing supplies aboard from below.
Re-fuelling and re-supplying the airplane
were the tricky parts. Twice daily, the
plane was flown just above a speeding
truck from which a hose was hoisted up to
pump 95 gallons of avgas into the belly
tank. Food, water and other supplies were
lifted up from the truck as well.
unsuccessful attempts at the record,
mechanical problems and difficulties
between Bob and his co-pilot needed to be
dealt with. A new pilot, John Cook,
agreed to fly the next flight with Bob.
That attempt was ultimately the record
breaker. The two fellows got along well,
and the 172 seemed to sense the harmony.
No more serious breakdowns occurred for
the more than 1,550 hours of continuous
4, 1958, the pair departed McCarran
Airport in Las Vegas in pursuit of their
dream. Immediately after takeoff, they
flew low over a speeding car while
someone with a giant paint roller applied
a special white paint to the tires of the
plane. It would provide proof that the
pilots didn't land at night in some far
off airport for a rest or repairs.
is a long time to be away from family,
friends, and the comforts we take for
granted on the ground. There was an
autopilot installed, but Bob and John
needed to take turns flying and sleeping.
Four hour shifts seemed to work well.
They had a radio to talk to the mechanics
at their base, a radio to speak with
their families at home, and a monitor was
set up in the Hacienda lobby as part of
the publicity campaign.
fell into a routine that worked well, and
by the half-way mark of the flight, it
was Christmas. The hotel kitchen staff
was charged with the meals, and on
December 25, John hoisted a turkey dinner
up from the fuel truck.
from the T-bird.
fatigue were the biggest problems. One
night, both men were asleep for a period
of time lasting over two hours. The
plane, on autopilot, had continued south
until it was almost in Mexican airspace
before Timm woke up and realized they
were way off course. On about day 40,
their heater failed. Even in the desert,
winter nights can be cold. The men
wrapped themselves in blankets for a few
days, until something could be rigged and
lifted up to fix the problem.
As the end
of the flight neared, Bob and John began
to check each other's work fearing a
human error would cause them to fail in
their quest for a world endurance record.
Each procedure, every item, every
decision was carefully planned and
discussed. The previous record was 50
days. As that day passed, they decided to
extend their flight as long as possible,
finally touching down over two weeks
later. By then, the engine had started to
carbon up and lost so much power that
climbing out with full fuel was dangerous. The list of 'snags' included the
generator, heater, tachometer, fuel
gauge, winch and electric fuel pump.
It was a
tremendous achievement for both man and
machine. Sixty four days and twenty two
hours in the air.
died unexpectedly in 1978. John Cook
passed away in 1995. The Cessna 172 was
sold to a Canadian pilot, but was
eventually brought back to Nevada, where
it now hangs from the ceiling at McCarran
story of this flight, and the record
which stands to this day, is available to
read at the Howard W. Cannon Aviation
Museum at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.
They also have a video on it, a short
version is on-line at:
has several other interesting videos,
courtesy of the Howard W. Cannon Aviation
Museum, Las Vegas, NV.