Around the world flight in a Pipistrel suffers a setback

We have recently mentioned how a number of aviation sites are following Slovene pilot Matevž Lenarcic as he flies around the world in his modified Pipistrel Virus SW 914 Turbo with an Intercooler unit. Lenarcic, who is an avid photographer and a biologist, is also taking ecological measurements and gathering material for his twelfth book. Moreover and when he completes the trip, he would have flown the lightest aircraft ever (640 pounds) around the world to the west and set record for gas mileage (28 statute miles per gallon).

In mid February, Lenarcic had successfully landed in Antarctica and then Tahiti in late February but last week, the AOPA Pilot Blog reported that Lenarcic had landed safely in Australia at Ayers Rock Connellan Airport after suffering in-flight structural damage. A quick glance at Lenarcic’s website, GreenLight World Flight, reveals that he is still grounded and his aircraft is due for a thorough inspection on Tuesday that will determine his next moves.

Apparently, serious vibrations alerted Lenarcic to problems while he was photographing Ayers Rock but he was still able to fly and land the aircraft safely. So far, no word on what caused the problem or how this will impact Pipistrel Aircraft.

Nevertheless, Paul Bertorelli has written a lengthy post about his visit to Pipistrel Aircraft in Slovenia and how pilots there deal with $8 a gallon fuel prices. Specifically, Paul wrote that:

Nothing is for free, of course, and for that reason, people who don’t care about mileage may not like the Virus much. It’s smallish in the cabin and a bit tight. Headroom is adequate but not generous. Same with the baggage compartment. The seats are functional and spare. At every turn, components are small and lightened, albeit superbly crafted. The systems are simple and well designed.

Paul also wrote that thanks to aircraft such as this, members of the flying club he visited can fly off to Venice or Florence and back with gas to spare. Hence and despite the high cost of fuel and the heavy regulatory burden, Pipistrel Aircraft makes flying affordable – especially in group ownership.

Either way, let’s hope Lenarcic gets safely off the ground again and is able to complete his around the world flight.

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