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Local pilot to fly from South Pole to North Pole

EL CAJON, Calif. — San Diego-based pilot Robert DeLaurentis will depart Saturday for a six-month expedition that will take him from the South Pole to the North Pole in what’s billed as a first-of-its-kind “aerial global peace mission to connect the only two places on the planet where peace actually exists.”

The 26,000-mile journey will take place in highly modified 1983 Gulfstream Turbine Commander 900 named “Citizen of the World.” Upgrades include an increased range from 2,000 nautical miles to 5,000-6,000 nautical miles, two Predator Drone engines, five-bladed nickel tipped scimitar composite props, ten extra fuel tanks, ceramic coating, RVSM, a lighter environmental system that uses less bleed air.

DeLaurentis is expected to depart from El Cajon’s Gillespie Field at about 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Organizers promised “celebrity ride-alongs” on some legs of the trip, including aviator Erik Lindbergh (grandson of Charles Lindbergh) and supernova expert and astronomer Mark Armstrong. A documentary is also being filmed as part of the trip, with aerial photoshoots over Southern California, Alaska, Switzerland and on the outbound leg to the South Pole.

Among the flight’s experiments will be a Wafer Scale spacecraft experiment consisting of several small (10 cm diam x 1 cm thick) `spacecraft’ that are prototypes for the NASA Starlight program. Each spacecraft will have a GPS, optical communications devices to interact with each other, ultra-low power radio, inertial navigation, temperature and optical imaging sensors. Data will be recorded on-board.

“Citizen will be the first aircraft in history to be tracked globally during a polar circumnavigation by ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast), which transmits the aircraft’s unique call number, along with position, altitude, speed, direction, and other data to 66 Iridium NEXT satellites in addition to ground stations globally,” according to a news release. “Iridium NEXT has made possible a `100 percent’ global air traffic surveillance system that will increase safety, enhance efficiency, improve predictability, expand capacity, and lower costs. These benefits will, in turn, result in a significant reduction of carbon in the atmosphere — the equivalent of removing 300,000 cars a year from the roads! This is a true global win.”

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