MIT freshman aims for youngest solo flight around the world

Matt Guthmiller (courtesy photo)
Matt Guthmiller (courtesy photo)

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MIT

Matt Guthmiller, a 19-year-old freshman at MIT, is combining his passion for computer science with his love of flying by taking a 28,000-mile solo flight around the world later this month. If he succeeds, he will become the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe on a solo flight.

It all started after Guthmiller read an article about a 21-year-old who became the youngest person to fly solo around the world last spring. “I thought, ‘Next summer I’ll be 19, and I can do that,’’’ he recalled. Guthmiller, who is majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, is a self-taught software engineer who began writing code in fifth grade.

He was looking for a charity to support along the way and decided to raise money for Code.org with help from the nonprofit Limitless Horizons, to spread awareness about the importance of computer education around the globe. Code.org promotes the idea that computer science should be part of the core curriculum in K-12 education.

“I’ve been doing things with computers as long as I can remember,” he said. Guthmiller says his acceptance to MIT was due in large part to things he’s been able to build through computer science. “I’m hoping to inspire other people to do big things and go out and do something similar. The possibilities of things you can build with computer science are incredibly limitless.”

Guthmiller’s biggest challenge was finding someone with a small plane who would not only let him lease it — but let him fly it around the world. A native of Aberdeen, S.D., Guthmiller will be flying a 1981 Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, a single-engine plane with six seats. He will take four of the seats out to add extra fuel tanks, and is planning to fly as long as 14 hours at a time when he travels from Hawaii to San Diego.

His goal is to raise about $350,000. He declined to say what he’s raised so far, but said he is still looking for sponsors. Guthmiller’s trip will begin in San Diego on May 27 and he expects to be back in early July. Anyone interested in donating or viewing his itinerary can go to Limitless-Horizons.org.