For a man who always wanted to become a pilot, Adrian Eichhorn didn’t get to solo in an aircraft until he was 29.
Now at age 60, he is making a solo trip around the world.
Adrian is a JetBlue Airbus A320 first officer, and a military vet. This week, he will be taking off alone on a pivotal journey around the globe in his Beechcraft Bonanza, affectionately named “Gina” for the last letter of the tail: N1733G. In history, just 113 “earthrounders” have done the same in a single-engine aircraft.
The son of a pilot and the brother of a flight attendant, Adrian was born to fly. But the sure path to flight—following his father’s footsteps as an Army aviator—veered off course when the Army had other plans for Adrian. Nevertheless, he stayed in the Army for 21 years and even became the nuclear advisor to President Bill Clinton.
“When I got commissioned in the military with the whole idea of becoming a helicopter pilot, but they told me, ‘No, you’re going to be a civil engineer,’ that drove me to do it on my own,” he says.
While stationed in Korea, Adrian bought a private pilot textbook and began flying lessons at a military flying club. His first pilot gig was flying the Washington Redskins’ corporate jet. Then came the high-profile job: Flying for the FAA’s Gulfstream, transporting American heroes like Neil Armstrong and John Glenn, and convicted murderers like Neil Entwistle. Finally at age 50, Adrian began his training as a commercial pilot, and eventually, a JetBlue first officer.
After the “dream job with the feds,” it may seem that the last 10 years at JetBlue is Adrian settling down. But the flexible schedule of a first officer has allowed him to prepare for his biggest adventure yet.
At the ultimate boys’ club—the Manassas Regional Airport in Virginia— Adrian is home. His hangar is more like a garage, with toolboxes, sheet metals, cutters and all the materials he needs to work on his Beechcraft Bonanza, which he’s been modifying since 1989.
Adrian has taken the airplane apart and put it back together. He’s ripped out the back seats, rebuilt the engine, customized the panel and installed tip tanks for enough fuel storage to last 3,500 miles nonstop, or approximately 26 hours. He’s gotten the Bonanza to what he describes as “perfect of an airplane.”
While this is a trip he’s been planning all of his life, it was a family tragedy that propelled Adrian to set a final deadline. “I realized there are no guarantees in life,” he says.
After a year of final preparations, Adrian and Gina are ready to fly.
“Hopefully this trip will motivate others to realize that yes, if you set goals—realistic goals—and stick with it, you can do trips like this,” Adrian says. “Or you can become a doctor. Or you can become a teacher. You’ve got to be willing to make sacrifices to get to where you want to go, especially in aviation. It’s difficult becoming a commercial pilot these days, but it’s possible.”
Adrian will be departing this week for his trip around the world. Follow along with us on the blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as we track Adrian’s journey using #N1733G.