Piloting a Homebuilt around the Poles merits FAI award & Advances Scientific Knowledge

captain michel gordillo
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Captain Michel Gordillo

FAI World Record & Environmental Data for Science

Captain Michel Gordillo was recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (F.A.I.) with a world record for being the first pilot to

  • circumnavigate both the North and South Poles in a homebuilt aircraft weighing under 1,750 kilograms (3,858 pounds), and
  • to be the first ever to fly a single-engine aircraft across Antarctica.

captain michel gordillo

His plane was constructed by the Spanish, former airline pilot with the aid of his three daughters and was named the Sky Polaris. The Vans RV-8 was made available by Van’s Aircraft in 1968 as an acrobatic aircraft and the company describes this bird as follows:

  • “The RV-8/8A retains the fighter-like feel of centerline seating, but the wider fuselage contains cockpits that accommodate large people in comfort.”
  • “The large 42 gallon fuel capacity and efficient airframe provide long range and high cruise speeds, so long distances can be covered easily.”
  • “The speed and the excellent climb rate provide options for dealing with weather and terrain that simply aren’t available to most pilots.”

Gordillo explained that the aircraft and engine were selected for their fuel efficiency and reliability. In fact, given his trans global flight plan, the operating specifications of his home built were essential to success. The Sky Polaris and Captain Gordillo set the following records:

  • Miles traveled: 47,475
  • Kilometers traveled: 76,400
  • Longest leg: 4,735 kilometers
  • Countries visited: 25
  • Hours flown: 305
  • Highest altitude: 15,500 feet
  • Fuel capacity: 192 U.S. gallons (730 liters)

michel gordillo fai world record flight

In addition to setting an FAI record, Gordillo flight over the two poles gathered critical data on the buildup of black carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere in remote regions of the world. “Because of its altitude and airspeed, the Sky Polaris has retrieved some very unique data from the atmospheres over big oceans, the Arctic, Antarctica, the Amazon region and desert areas I crossed during my flights,” he said, “The data is very good and will be distributed to scientists all over the world.”

The organization which officially monitored the record and issued the Captain this award, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale was founded on October 14 1905. The organizers defined its mission would be to methodically catalogue the best performances achieved, so that they be known to everybody; to identify their distinguishing features so as to permit comparisons to be made; and to verify evidence and thus ensure that record-holders have undisputed claims to their titles.”

Here is the list of FAI’s most recent recognitions:

Date Name Country Category Description Performance Record
06.01.2015 SCHMELZER Tijl BEL Gliding – Africa Record Speed over a triangular course of 100 km – First to pass the 200km/h barrier using thermals rather than mountain waves 179.00 km/h Current
21.01.1987 MCCALLIN Lois USA Human-Powered Aeroplane – Female category Duration 37mn 38sec Current
17.02.2012 SINGH Parmjit IND Microlights Distance in a straight line without landing 313.13 km Current
21.05.1927 LINDBERGH Charles USA Powered Aeroplanes Distance in a straight line without landing – First solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean (New York-Paris) 5809 km Superseded
30.05.2012 BOTT Jacques FRA Hang Gliding Out-and-return distance 366.4 km Current
23.06.2016 PICCARD Bertrand SUI Powered Aeroplanes – Electric Distance – First solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean aboard an solar-powered aircraft (New York-Seville) 176.35 km/h Current
02.07.1937 EARHART Amelia USA Disappearance Not a record
09.07.2012 DANJO Akihiro JPN Aeromodelling – Free flight Duration 19 min 40 sec Current
23.07.2016 KONYUKHOV Fedor RUS Ballooning – Absolute record Shortest time around the world 268 h 20 min Current
08.08.1997 MURRAY Jennifer GBR Rotorcraft Speed around the world. Eastbound 22.44 km/h Current
23.08.1977 ALLEN Bryan USA Human-Powered Aircraft First human-powered aircraft capable of controlled and sustained flight aboard the MacCready Gossamer Condor Not a record
31.08.1977 FEDOTOV Alexandr RUS Powered Aeroplanes – Absolute Record Altitude  37’650 m Current
04.10.1957 Astronautics Sputnik 1: first artificial Earth satellite Not a record
14.10.2012 BAUMGARTNER Felix AUT Parachuting Vertical Speed Records without a Drogue – First person to break the sound barrier without vehicular power 1’357.6 km/h Current
14.10.1947 YEAGER Chuck USA First to break the sound barrier Not a record
15.10.1927 COSTES Dieudonné/LE BRIX Joseph FRA Powered Airplanes First nonstop flight across the South Atlantic Ocean (Senegal-Brazil) Not a record
22.10.1797 GARNERIN André-Jacques FRA Parachuting First parachuting jump Not a record
03.11.1957 Laika (dog) Astronautics First animal in orbit (aboard Sputnik 2) Not a record
13.11.1907 CORNU Paul FRA Helicopters First well documented helicopter flight Not a record
16.12.2012 UEYAMA Kenichi JPN Aeromodelling – Radio Control Flight  Speed in a closed circuit 219.85 km/h Current
19.12.2007 DUVOISIN Pierrick SUI Hot-Air Balloons –
250 m3 and less
Duration – Very small balloon 6 h 20 min 38 sec Current


Captain Gordillo’s dual purpose flight should merit one of FAI’s highest recognitions!

captain michel gordillo


Michel Gordillo First to Circumnavigate the North and South Poles in a Homebuilt Aircraft
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