When teen pilot Ryan Campbell touched down at Illawarra Regional Airport on Saturday, his first task, after greeting hundreds of well-wishers, was to head to the polling booths.
The 19-year-old could be forgiven for not casting his vote earlier – he has been a little busy breaking world records.
The Merimbula teen returned to the region on Saturday, 10 weeks after leaving the Albion Park airport, as the youngest person and first teenager ever to fly a single engine aircraft around the world.
He was met by hundreds of residents, bearing Australian flags and cheering for him, along with his family and mentor Ken Evers, and an aerobatics display by the world-renowned Royal Australian Air Force Roulettes.
The teenager told the crowd the experience was simply ‘‘surreal’’.
‘‘It’s hard to get it into my head what I’ve actually done,’’ he said.
‘‘There has been so many challenges but it’s wonderful to come home to such a positive response.’’
Flying a single engine Cirrus SR22, The Spirit of the Sapphire Coast, Ryan travelled through 15 countries and covered more than 24,000 nautical miles on his 70-day Teen World Flight adventure.
He told the Mercury the trip had not been without its challenges.
He had struggled to manage
the constant stream of
jobs associated with flying.
‘‘If it wasn’t flying, it was fuelling, or organising currency with someone who doesn’t speak English,’’ he said.
‘‘There were moments that were really hard with weather and air traffic delays, plus I was always up early to talk to people with the time zones so I just
didn’t stop for two months.’’
He admitted he was happy to be home and couldn’t wait to jump on a surfboard and work on his next project.
‘‘I’ll probably stay on the ground for a week or so but that’s pretty good for me,’’ he laughed.
‘‘I just want to be at home and really work on starting some
sort of schools tour,’’ he said.
Ryan’s mum Jo-Anne, who was thrilled to have her son home, said the trip represented a life-long love of flying.
‘‘Ryan’s wanted to be a pilot since he was six,’’ she said.
Ryan flew home to Merimbula yesterday. His trip was featured on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes last night.