The longest flight on an airplane without landing, which lasted more than two months

In 2005, news spread throughout the world that on December 10, a Boeing 777-200LR made a non-stop flight from Hong Kong to London over 21,000 kilometers. The route was laid not from east to west (9647 kilometers long), but from west to east, as a result of which the flight lasted almost a day. However, few people know that this was the longest, but not the longest, flight without landing. In 1958–1959, two pilots, Robert Timm and John Cook, completed a flight that lasted 64 days, 22 hours and 19 minutes. Thus, they set a record that has stood for 65 years. During this time, the pilots covered 240 thousand kilometers, which is equivalent to more than six trips around the world.

The longest non-stop airplane flight, which lasted more than two months. Robert Timm and John Cook during a flight that lasted almost 65 days. Photo source: Photo.


  • 1 The longest flight in history and the Hacienda casino
  • 2 How the plane was refueled in the air
  • 3 The longest flight in history
  • 4 A record in aviation that is still never beat

The longest flight in history and the Hacienda casino

No matter how strange it may sound, the history of the longest flight without landing began with a casino. In 1956, a hotel with a gambling club called the Hacienda opened in Las Vegas. To advertise its opening, the owners decided to stage a publicity stunt of incredible proportions – write the name of the casino on board the plane and set a world record for the longest flight on it.

Among the hotel staff was World War II bomber pilot Robert Timm. He worked as a slot machine mechanic at a casino. When he came across an ambitious plan, he agreed to bring it to life.

The longest flight in the history of the Hacienda casino. The Cessna 172 aircraft that set the world record. Photo source: Photo.

The Cessna 172 aircraft, which set a world record. Photo source:

To implement the plan, a four-seater Cessna 172 aircraft was chosen, which was mass-produced. However, to make the flight possible, many modifications were made to the design of the machine. In particular, an additional tank with a capacity of almost 360 liters was installed in the aircraft. But, of course, even a second tank would not be enough to fly for two months. Therefore, engineers had to solve the problem of refueling the plane in the air.

How the plane refueled in the air

Currently, refueling does not present any difficulty – special refueling aircraft with fuel are used for this purpose. But then it was 1958, and the problem could not be solved easily. Attempts to refuel from the air were unsuccessful, so they decided to refuel from the ground using a truck, as reported by CNN.

When the plane needed to refuel, it lowered altitude and flew very low and slow, only slightly exceeding stall speed. A truck was approaching him, a hose was fixed with a cable from the plane and lifted using a winch. Fuel was supplied to the aircraft tank using a pump. According to eyewitnesses, the refueling was a show of flying skill. Moreover, sometimes this operation was carried out at night, which required even greater precision from the pilots.

How the plane was refueled in the air. The plane was refueled from the ground. Photo source: Photo.

The aircraft was refueled from the ground. Photo source:

Each time, refueling took place on a perfectly flat stretch of road along the California-Arizona border. The plane could slow down here, but the truck, on the contrary, picked up the required speed and could move unhindered at a steady speed. At the same moment, food, water and other necessary supplies were transferred aboard the ship.

The longest flight in history

It was not possible to make the flight right away. Robert Timm's first three attempts ended in failure due to various technical problems, including difficulties with refueling. But the pilot did not despair and decided to make a fourth attempt, but this time together with aircraft mechanic John Cook. On December 4, 1958, the crew took off from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas and did not land for more than 64 days. All this time, the plane was flying over desert areas of Nevada, outside urban areas. To avoid fraud, one of the truck's wheels was painted white after takeoff and then inspected before landing.

John Cook reportedly kept a diary during the flight, but as the mission continued, the entries in it became increasingly delusional. Stress, lack of sleep, boredom and physical fatigue were obviously taking their toll. It was really hard for the pilots.

The longest flight in history. Robert Timm next to the plane. Photo source: Photo.

Robert Timm next to the plane. Photo source:

While one of the pilots was flying the plane, the other was sleeping on a mattress in the rear of the cockpit. But this was difficult to do in a noisy aircraft with strong aerodynamic vibrations. One day, constant lack of sleep almost killed them. On the 36th day of the flight, Robert Timm fell asleep at the controls, causing the plane to fly on autopilot for over an hour at an altitude of 1,200 meters. And a few days later, the autopilot completely failed.

For washing, a removable platform was provided, which was installed between the open cockpit and the wing strut. The aircraft also had a collapsible camping toilet. Packages with contents were simply thrown out of the plane window into the desert.

An aviation record that has not yet been broken

Despite all the difficulties, the crew remained in the air. Even after breaking the previous record of 47 days, Robert Timm and John Cook decided to make it harder for pilots who decided to beat their achievement. As a result, their flight lasted almost 65 days. By the end of it, many aircraft systems had failed, including the cabin heater, fuel level indicator, fuel transfer pump, landing lights, etc. But the most amazing thing is that the engine continued to work.

A record in aviation that has not yet been broken. Robert Timm and John Cook after landing. Photo.

Robert Timm and John Cook after landing

How did the pilots feel when they landed? Only they themselves knew this, but conclusions can be drawn from John Cook’s answer to journalists. When asked about the possibility of another flight, he replied that if such a desire arises, he will lock himself in a garbage can with the vacuum cleaner on, ask Timm to serve T-bone steaks, cut in a thermos, and will sit there until he goes to work in the morning his psychiatrist.

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Fortunately for Robert Timm and John Cook, this flight ended successfully, but there have been many cases in the history of aviation when attempts to set a record ended tragically. For example, the plane of Mary Earhart, who was traveling around the world, at some point simply disappeared. Only 90 years later, researchers may have been able to find out where he disappeared. Read more about this at the link.