Bring back some good or bad memories


October 6, 2023

The World’s Longest Flight: In 1958 Two Men in a Cessna Flew For More Than Two Months Without Landing

During the months of December 1958 and January and February 1959, two young men flew a mission-modified Cessna 172 around and around over the desert Southwest for 64 days, 22 hours, and 19 minutes. The world endurance record in a propeller-driven airplane was set in that little Cessna that still stands.

In 1956, an entrepreneur wanted to promote his Las Vegas hotel and his slot machine mechanic, Robert Timm, a WW2 bomber pilot, had an idea. He convinced the owner to fund an attempt to break the manned flight endurance record, with Hacienda Hotel featured prominently on the aircraft. Timm found a Cessna 172, registered N9217B, and with a trusted mechanic, spent a year modifying it for the record attempt. Like Airbus, they installed a belly tank to supplement the 47 gallons carried in the wings. The 95-gallon belly tank had an electric pump to transfer fuel to the main tank, and they also replumbed the oil lines to change oil and filters without shutting down the engine.

After three failed attempts, Timm found a new co-pilot and mechanic, John Wayne Cook and ultimately, they took off on December 4, 1958, at 15:52. They made a low pass on the airfield to allow a chase car to paint white stripes on the aircraft's tires to ensure they didn't make any secret landings. They spent most of their time flying over the deserts around Las Vegas, sometimes diverting to Los Angeles for TV promotional opportunities. Now for the really ingenious method of refueling. Twice daily, a truck fitted with a fuel tank and pump would rendezvous with the aircraft over a straight stretch of closed highway.

The Cessna would fly roughly 20 feet off the ground and use an electric winch to lower a hook and snag the refueling hose. Timm or Cook would stand on a platform outside the door and insert the hose into the belly tank, taking around three minutes to fill. Over the course of the flight they refueled 128 times. The Hacienda prepared gourmet meals, but the food had to be chopped up and stuffed into thermos jugs to get them to the pilots.

Thirty-nine days in, the generator failed, so they had no lights, heat or fuel pump. The pair relied on a hand pump to transfer fuel and soon after had to refuel in the dark, with no lights or moon. They passed the existing record but decided to keep flying for as long as possible. By the beginning of February, the spark plugs and combustion chambers were loaded with carbon, making it difficult to climb with a full load after refueling. They decided to land on February 7, 1959, but before they could touch down, the paint on the tires was checked, and no scuff marks were found.

Timm and Cook had to be lifted out of the Cessna, and their record still stands today. Robert Timm died in 1976 and John Cook in 1995, both in Las Vegas, and the Hacienda Hotel was demolished in December 1996.


Post a Comment



Browse by Decades

Popular Posts


09 10