Around the world in 60 days: Retired Saudia pilot returns from solo flight

Capt. Sami Raffa quit his job with Saudi Airlines back in 2000, and after a long thinking, decided to act out his very own

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A retired Saudi Arabian Airlines pilot made history recently when he returned from his solo flight around the world on a single engine plane in 60 days.

Capt. Sami Raffa quit his job with Saudi Airlines back in 2000, and after a long thinking, decided to act out his very own.

Being the first person of Saudi Arabia, as well as the oldest person to ever succeed in such a colossal feat, has placed Raffa way above the clouds he rode alone in 60 days.

The trip became reality in 2015 when he trekked outside of his home country for only the third time in his life after he failed to complete his first two trips in 1961 and 1962 because of the political situation in the Arab World back then.

Speaking about his historical achievement at a press conference here in Jeddah, the 73-year-old said, “I thought I would never accomplish my dream, so I decided to sell my private jet but while I was finalizing the deal, I received a call from Sheikh Yousef Abdulatif Jameel and he asked me to stop the deal because he showed his interest to support my trip.”

Raffa took an early interest in aviation and was 16 when began his passion of flying.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve got to the point in life where I just decided to do it,” he told the media personnel.

Raffa called his trip the “trip of gratitude”. “This is my personal thanks to all of those aviators whose skills, sacrifices and teachings have provided me with a full and fruitful career in aviation,” he explained.

Cap. Raffa left on April 28, 2015, on his 40,000-km trip, which is equal to the distance around the world at the Equator.

“The whole experience is incredibly humbling and ‘I’ve been extremely lucky going on an adventure like this,” he said.

What may be even more of a surprise is Cap. Raffa had flown around world adventure in a piston-powered, single engine airplane. His aircraft of choice is the very well suited Moony Model M20R Ovation, a 1995 American built aircraft which has been highly modified at his direction.

“Depending on the actual weather, we departed from Baden Baden, Germany, on April 28 with many special events and well wishes along the route. Weather played a key factor in determining the exact route on a daily and sometimes hourly basis,” Raffa said.

Raffa made about two dozen stops in 17 countries and the trip took him over deserts, glaciers, oceans and volcanoes.

“The trip held many challenges: extreme weather, engine failure, tricky navigation, a scarcity of airfield, and necessity of dealing with unfamiliar countries and cultures,” he said.

Inspired at the age of 16, Raffa said he hopes to inspire the next generation of aviators and his trip was to show younger people that they could do anything if they believed in themselves and worked hard.

Finally, he praised the role of Yousef Jameel, owner of the Anjumhotel in Makkah, and also Abdullah Al Sayed, president and CEO of NEXUS Flight Operation Services of Saudi Arabia, in making his dream come true for Saudi Arabia and for their assistance and support during his trip.

He announced that he is intending to publish a book to document his historical adventure.

He dedicated this historical trip to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the people of Saudi Arabia.

Raffa was born in Makkah, but he was raised and educated in Vienna, Austria. He flew for Saudi Arabian Airlines for 37 years.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.