Flying a Lycoming IO-540-AE1A5 powered Robinson® R44® II, Miami-based pilot Yosuke Chatmaleerat, 28, set a Guinness World Record for the fastest solo helicopter flight through all 48 contiguous states in the United States. Stopping only to refuel, he achieved the feat in just 12 days, 14 hours and 59 minutes.
Even though the helicopter journey was fast, it was certainly not a short journey for Chatmaleerat. Several months went into planning the trip, which began in Tallahassee, Florida and led him up to Maine and along the east coast. He then headed southwest through Texas and California's Sierra mountains. Chatmaleerat went north to Washington state, east to Wisconsin, south to Louisiana and then back to Florida.
While the trip was very well planned out, Chatmaleerat said he needed to be flexible and ready to adjust for any situation. "Ironically, half of my planning went out the window halfway through the attempt," Chatmaleerat said. "Many things changed during the trip due to bad weather and things got more complicated in the west due to terrain."
The variety of conditions he encountered was challenging, along with mental, emotional and physical fatigue. "With ongoing external pressure of having to finish the record attempt in the fastest time, you always have to be honest with yourself and prioritize safety at all times," Chatmaleerat said.
The challenging task required not only a capable pilot but also a reliable aircraft. Chatmaleerat praises his helicopter and its powerplant. "Robinson helicopters use Lycoming engines, which are some of the most powerful and reliable engines used in any aircraft today," he said. "This kind of record puts the pilot, aircraft, and engine to a test. It requires an aircraft with the most remarkable engine performance and endurance and I do not know a more suitable helicopter for it."
Setting the world record was not Chatmaleerat's only goal. This was also a journey to spread awareness of the pilot shortage. "Our aviation industry is hurting from pilot shortage and it is getting worse," Chatmaleerat said. "The airlines are transitioning over helicopter pilots, and the helicopter industry is, in turn, struggling to train new pilots."
He hopes that, in pursuing his aviation goals, he will encourage other pilots-to-be to pursue their own goals. Yosuke is also promoting the importance of helicopter missions and flight safety. In addition, Chatmaleerat is a representative of the National Gay Pilot Association (NGPA), which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020.
Chatmaleerat said that this record is a prerequisite for other activities he hopes to pursue. Chatmaleerat is also a gymnast and pianist. "We are all given different sizes, kinds and colours of crayons, but it is up to us how we decide to paint our pictures," he said. "I am so humbled to have the opportunity and privilege to experience this. The beauty of USA landscapes alone will forever remind me of how lucky we are to be living in this world today and I will continue to walk forward with the hope to inspire others to be the best that they can be."