Pilot Richard “Smokey” Young set a world record Saturday — at least preliminarily.
Attempting to establish a new 100-kilometer — 62 miles — closed-course speed record for a piston-engine aircraft weighing between 660 and 1,320 pounds at the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport in Thermal, the pilot surpassed the existing record with a top speed for the day of 260 mph, officials said.
In the existing 2004 world record, set by former astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson for the fastest flight over a closed course, a plane traveled 233 mph, according to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in Switzerland, which will have to finalize Saturday’s results and confirm Young has bested the previous record.
“I’ve never had (a record) changed, but it has to go through the process,” said Brian Utley, who will certify the flight as a member of the contest and record board for the National Aeronautic Association.
Final certification of a new record could take up to three months, officials said.
Nevertheless, Young accomplished his goal Saturday despite having to try multiple times.
His first try in the morning was fast, but he missed a required checkpoint along the course, and the flight could not be certified.
Rather than give up, Young opted for a second attempt at 6 p.m. Saturday. He said he expected to top out at about 260 mph.
“I feel really good about it,” he said of his successful attempt Saturday evening.
It appeared that his spirits stayed high throughout the day.
“We’re running the engine right at its point. To be honest with you, that’s why I’m running it over water,” Young said just before his first attempt early Saturday.
“It’s probably one of the riskier flights I’ve done.”
He flew a Continental O-200 engine using biofuel made by Swift Enterprises Ltd.
“It’s an experimental plane with an experimental engine using experimental fuel,” Young said. “It’s green technology really to the max. Nobody else is making biofuel for aviation. Nobody.”