Man, 72, again trying D.C.-to-Moscow solo flight

June 16, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- There is something deep within Charlie Mack's psyche that makes him do this. But no one is quite sure what.

"I don't know why he wants to do these crazy things," said Mr. Mack's sister, Angie Machin, of Hollywood. "There are so many other things to do."

But yesterday morning, sure as the Florida sky shone blue, Mr. Mack, 72, took off from North Perry field in Pembroke Pines, Fla., ready to take another tilt at a world-record-setting solo flight from Washington to Moscow in a Beechcraft Bonanza.

The retired Air Force fighter pilot plans to leave Dulles International Airport in Virginia at 6 a.m. Saturday and arrive Sunday in Moscow about 8 p.m. local time. The entire trip will take more than 30 hours.

If this all sounds familiar, here's why: Last year, Mr. Mack attempted the same trip, only to be snatched out of the air over Finland by an overzealous Helsinki air traffic controller unaware of his plans. (That was only the beginning of a hapless odyssey that also involved an emergency landing on a grass strip in nearby Estonia.)

This time, a few more precautions have been taken.

"Things are a little different," Mr. Mack said. "We'll coordinate this time."

Mr. Mack has contacted aviation authorities along his route, letting them know he will be on his way. And the folks in Moscow are expecting him.

But even as Mr. Mack lifted off the runway, not all the plans were finished. A few last details need to be ironed out, and Mr. Mack is confident everything will be set before he takes off Saturday. And if not, so be it.

"I'm going to go anyhow," he said.

The gargantuan trip takes a specially modified plane loaded with extra fuel tanks. Last year, Mr. Mack installed a new engine, too.

The part-time Hollywood resident is no stranger to highflying, record-setting attempts. In 1989, he flew non-stop over the top of the globe, from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Helsinki, setting a world record for solo, single-engine flight.

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