From Central Florida’s beaches, the horizon appears impossibly far away, but there’s no such thing as impossible, according to Trevor Simoneau, a teenage DeLandite plotting a trip around the globe that would make him the youngest person to circumnavigate the planet alone in a plane.
“Any 17-year-old comes to you and says ‘I’m going to fly around the world,’ you’ve got some questions,” Simoneau told The Beacon.
He said this trip — which he calls Fly Infinite Horizons — has been meticulously planned, starting even before he had piloted a plane by himself.
Simoneau said the idea of circling the globe solo came in early 2019, when he realized that, based on his level of piloting experience, he had a shot at breaking the world record.
After a long conversation with close friend and previous record-holder Matt Guthmiller, Simoneau set his sights on his new, globe-trotting plan.
But first, he had to tell his parents.
“He was pretty crafty when he asked us,” said Trevor’s mom, Eileen Simoneau. She said she wasn’t surprised when he announced his plans, because he is always shooting for the stars.
“He is the real deal,” she said. “I’m just hanging onto his contrail.”
While COVID-19 might delay his planned March 2021 takeoff and cost Simoneau a shot at the world record for being the youngest, he said this trip is about much more than that.
“I don’t do anything I do for praise, or anything like that. I do it because I love flying and for the adventure aspect,” he said. “This is already such a complicated project, I don’t want to add an additional factor to that of having to get tested in every spot and quarantining. It’s just not worth it for your name on a piece of paper.”
Now a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Simoneau’s love of aviation began on Florida’s Space Coast.
“Growing up in Central Florida, I basically had the space shuttle in my backyard. I loved everything about it,” he said.
He dreamed of being an astronaut, but when the NASA space shuttle program ended in 2011, and with SpaceX private flights not around yet, he turned his attention to something he found a lot of astronauts had in common: a background in general aviation.
“At that time, I thought of aviation as taking an airline to go on a vacation or visit family. We did that a few times, but that was pretty much the extent of my aviation knowledge. I had no idea there was this thing called general aviation, where you could fly small airplanes, take friends flying, and go on these awesome adventures, that sort of thing,” he said.
For his 10th birthday, Simoneau’s parents surprised him with a flight through the Young Eagles, a group of volunteer pilots that take children ages 8 to 17 up in the air to spark interest in aviation. And it certainly worked for Simoneau.
“I absolutely fell in love with it. I was hooked,” he said. “Aviation really took over my life. I knew this was something I wanted to do, and I had to find a way to make it happen.”
There was one snag: Flying doesn’t come cheap. Between the cost of licenses, training, and the plane itself, there’s a lot of money involved. Simoneau needed a way to fund this sky-high dream, so, at 11 years old, he started a company: Chart it All.
“We create customized aeronautical chart products. Basically, an aeronautical chart is a pilot’s map, so we create all sorts of things: shirts, socks, yoga pants, and masks now,” he explained. “They can choose the airport, the location, anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people or pilots may choose their own personal private airport in the middle of nowhere, where they first soloed, where they had an engine failure. It’s kind of a cool conversation piece.”
Using the money from Chart it All, which has gained popularity in recent years, Simoneau has been able to pay his training and licensing fees and keep the milestones coming.
Pilots can begin flying solo only when they turn 16, so on his 16th birthday, Simoneau flew solo. Now 17, he has his private pilot’s license and can go up by himself with others and function as the person in command of a plane.
Flying infinite horizons
Simoneau said the inspiration for the name “Fly Infinite Horizons” may seem obvious, but it holds a deeper meaning for him.
“It’s obvious in the sense of flying around the world, covering all the horizons, but for me, the whole concept of infinite horizons is that a lot of people tell you that the sky is the limit, or that sort of thing. I don’t believe that at all,” he said. “I think the whole idea of what it means to fly infinite horizons means that you can do anything. That’s what this trip represents.”
While traveling, Simoneau intends to make 27 stops in 18 countries, stopping along the way to conduct workshops developed by a team of STEM educators targeted at elementary-, middle- and high-school students.
He also intends to stream the trip on his YouTube channel. All of this to try and get more people interested in aviation by taking them along on the trip.
“I had to work really hard to get to where I am in aviation. I just want to show students that you can do that. You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to come from an aviation family, or that sort of thing,” Simoneau said.
And like anything involving aviation, he said this won’t come cheap: His trip around the globe will cost about $500,000, most of which he said will be covered by Chart it All revenue, scholarships and donations.
Even with the costs accounted for and a flexible travel plan, there are still risks to keep in mind. Maybe not as many as when Amelia Earhart attempted a similar trip in 1937, but knowing what to do in case of engine failure over the ocean is incredibly important.
“Having the proper equipment, having a life raft, having food, having water, having all of these things that are part of getting stuck out in the ocean. I’m actually going through advanced survival training in a few weeks to cover those sorts of things,” he said.
A lot has changed since the early days of global flights. Simoneau’s plane, a decked-out 1977 Cessna 210, is equipped with a suite of fully computerized instruments the likes of which Earhart could never have dreamt of.
“You would never imagine that it was built in 1977,” Simoneau said. “It’s amazing where technology has gone.”
Another helpful instrument is the state-of-the-art autopilot system. Without that, the trip would be a lot different.
“Hand-flying around the world would not be fun,” Simoneau said with a laugh. “Hand-flying to Jacksonville is not fun.”
The sky’s never the limit
For Simoneau, a trip that may seem like the crowning achievement of a long career in aviation is only the beginning of a lifetime in the cockpit, or at least in helping others get in the cockpit.
“Long-term, I mean, my absolute goal is to actually end up in aviation law and advocacy up in Washington, D.C., working for an organization like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association or Experimental Aircraft Association,” he said. “What they do, basically, is lobby Congress for proper and safe aviation regulations.”
After his voyage, he intends to turn Fly Infinite Horizons into a foundation to support other pilots’ global trips. He said having met with other pilots who have taken this trip, he loves the small community they have formed. Without the guidance of these experienced travelers, he wouldn’t be making the trip himself.
“I look up to all of them and what they do, and I hope to someday be part of that,” Simoneau said. “Everyone I’ve encountered has been super welcoming and super helpful. I hope to do that someday for someone.”
For more information about Simoneau’s trip, visit his website, FlyInfiniteHorizons.org.