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British man circling globe in gyrocopter stops in Las Vegas

Updated July 11, 2019 - 4:31 pm

A man attempting to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a gyrocopter made a pit stop this week in the Las Vegas Valley.

James Ketchell, 37, of Basingstoke, England, touched down Wednesday at Henderson Executive Airport for a quick visit to “iconic” Las Vegas before he departs Friday morning.

The valley is one of 66 U.S. stops in 49 states Ketchell plans on his journey. He left Popham Airfield in Hampshire, England, on March 31 and expects to return by mid-September after traveling more than 22,000 miles.

Ketchell called it his “duty” to try to inspire young people along the way to “pursue their own goals and dreams.” His goal is to give a speech to schoolchildren in every country he visits.

“I don’t even know if I can do it,” he said Thursday. “I’m well over halfway around the world, but there’s still quite a bit in front of me. I’ll regret it if I don’t try.”

Even summer vacation in America won’t stop his efforts; he has a speech planned at a camp in Denver next week.

The vehicle of choice, a gyrocopter, is about 18 feet long and has a rotary head above that spins only from airflow, along with a small engine toward the rear of the plane to power it.

The open cockpit makes Ketchell think there “isn’t a better view” to see the terrain while he glides about 1,000 feet off the ground.

“You’re looking at the incredible landscape and knowing no one else is up there with you, and you’re looking down, wondering what people are doing,” he said. “The scenery is amazing.”

Rules for Ketchell’s flight were set by Switzerland-based Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the world governing body for air sports.

Ketchell is no stranger to adventure. In 2010, he rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 110 days. He later summited Mount Everest and cycled 18,000 miles around the world.

His gyrocopter journey through the U.S. began in Nome, Alaska, and will finish with a flight over Niagara Falls, hitting new places for Ketchell along the way.

“The more you travel, the more you realize there’s more opportunity out there,” he said. “There’s more amazing places, there’s more people, and you start to realize home will always be home, but I now want to experience new cities and big places.”

Ketchell and his sponsors are also raising awareness for two English charities he works with, Kindled Spirit, which supports victims of child trafficking, and Over the Wall, which runs camps for seriously ill children in Britain.

Reflecting on the first half of this trip, Ketchell said he most appreciated the moments when he wasn’t looking ahead.

“We’re always chasing the next stop,” he said. “But sometimes you have to sit back and say, ‘I’m really happy with how things are going here. I’m doing good. I’m over halfway around the world and meeting cool people. This is going good.’”

Ketchell’s progress is being tracked using an online map, and he is posting inspirational videos on his website.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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