Flying around the world is never an easy feat, even for someone who’s already successfully completed the journey. Just ask Michel Gordillo, whose latest circumnavigation for the Sky Polaris project took him an astonishing 12 years to prepare for.
A former pilot in the Spanish Air Force and for commercial airlines, Gordillo is a crusader for using light aviation to fight the negative effects of global warming. His Sky Polaris flight, undertaken as a research effort to monitor absorbable aerosols over remote regions, spanned from Pole to Pole and involved traversing extraordinarily dangerous conditions — even for an experienced pilot.
‘I studied the hardest part of the flight — Antarctica — from the very beginning,’ Gordillo says. ‘My main goal was survival, of course, as well as tracking my flight and sharing my experience.’
His two-seater RV8 received special modifications for its long-range flight, including a set of skis for winter conditions and extra fuel tanks for the extensive mileage. ‘The airplane was able to carry an enormous 760 fuel litres for an estimated endurance of around 25 hours, and it could jettison part of itself to lower its gross weight into the landing range,’ Gordillo notes.
But even with these considerations, the Sky Polaris expedition posed the particular dangers that only round-the-globe flights can claim — such as consistently passing through ultra-remote regions with absolutely zero reception and communication. To combat these problems, Gordillo turned to Spidertracks.
Sitting pretty - the Spider 6 takes centre stage in the RV8's dash
‘After a lot of reading and study, I chose Spidertracks for its recognition in the industry and true worldwide coverage in places such as Antarctica,’ Gordillo says. ‘These things, in addition to the team’s consistent interest in improving its service, gave me real confidence in the system.’
While in-flight, Gordillo used Spidertracks’ Spidertxt 2.0 communications platform to message his flight followers in Spain and New Zealand from his position in Antarctica — an unprecedented level of connection in a completely barren landscape.
Spidertracks also allowed Gordillo’s family, friends, and supporters to track his entire flight path in real-time, whether he was flying the Amazon River, dipping by Angel Falls, crossing the Andes, or passing over the Antarctic Ocean. It sent his followers messages at the time of each flight event, providing both them and Gordillo with the peace of mind that accompanies the power of knowing.
Gordillo’s journey achieved its research goal, collecting crucial data on black carbon that’s being analysed for the worldwide scientific community. They found that black carbon existed in unexpected areas of Antarctica, contributing to the warming of the atmosphere. ‘Our flight had an important purpose,’ the pilot says. ‘It showed that we need to increase studies on black carbon and do more to save the planet from man-made global warming.’
Now that he’s flown the globe several times over, Gordillo says he’s ready for retirement — but not before he helps to create a light-aviation network equipped with the tools necessary to jumpstart the black carbon revolution. And as for the role of Spidertracks in any future endeavours? It seems pretty much assured.
Take it from the globetrotter himself: ‘Spidertracks was a key to my own survival.’
To learn more about the Sky Polaris project, visit skypolaris.org.