A new world record for a solo flight from London to Cape Town and return to London, seems an improbable feat in a 200hp single-engine propeller aircraft built in a garage at home - especially accomplished in 3 days. 11 hours and 16 minutes.
Steve Noujaim - a former fighter pilot and aerobatic instructor - undertook this high-risk project to achieve a personal ambition. But even with meticulous planning and preparation, Steve had to draw on his reserves of specialist training and honed skills to help him overcome the fear he experienced during the intrepid task he had set himself.
CAREER TRIGGER POINTS
On hearing the news of Steve Noujaim’s Cape Challenge flight and his new world record on 3rd September 2010, his former RAF 74 Squadron, announced him as a new entrant into the folklore of aviation’.
This remarkable man achieved aviation history when he was awarded the highest honour of the Britannia Trophy 2010 bestowed by the Royal Aero Club for ‘the British aviator accomplishing the most meritorious performance in aviation during the previous year.
Steve is now counted among famous aviation names as Alex Henshaw, Alcock and Brown. Cobham, Clouston and Jean Batten. The Guild of Air Pilots and Navigator’s awarded him the coveted Master’s Medal for outstanding achievement.
Motivated and inspired by Alex Henshaw and his 71 year standing world record for the same round trip, Steve and his wife Anna, decided to build an aeroplane to attempt the flight challenge. Together they spent thousands of hours over the next nine years building a modified RV -7 single engine propeller kit plane - an American designed aircraft with a 25ft wingspan with a maximum speed of 230 mph.
Meticulous planning and preparation for the flight ensured that this courageous pilot had the best chance possible to succeed in his ambition.Considerations included the number of stops; areas of political unrest; navigational aids; the supply of special fuels – and contingency arrangements for supplies in the event of an unscheduled stop.
A team of experts undertook the complex African overflight permissions and negotiated with the many authorities, whilst Steve battled with ‘critical risk assessments’ and route planning.
Another group of professionals worked to enlist the vital support of business sponsors who helped make the project economically viable.His personal physical and mental fitness was also an issue that had to be addressed to prepare him for the ordeal.There were no quick fixes and no short cuts. Just hours of endless dedication and planning. Steve took off from Southend Airport in Essex at dawn on 31st August 2010 on the southbound leg of his record attempt with only two stops en-route at Tamanrasset in Southern Algeria and Brazzaville in Congo.
He also only allowed himself two stops on the return journey.By his own admission, the attempt proved to be a ‘traumatic experience’ facing incredible dangers - including weathering the most violent storms over Central Africa. But bad weather and long dark nights were just one dimension of his experience. No radio contact with anyone for hours on end; flying over deserts; and sleep deprivation led to fearful thoughts about what would happen if his engine stopped.
As he stood up in his cockpit on arrival back at Southend Airport, his first words summed it all up...“I have never been so (blank) scared in all my life”In the RAF, Steve was an operational fighter pilot, a qualified flying and weapons instructor.
He was the last student to fly the Lightning solo, and flew the F4 Phantom, Tucano and Hawk. Steve was a Central Flying School Examiner.Steve Noujaim is currently an Airbus A340 long haul airline Captain.
For relaxation Steve teaches aerobatics and flies sailplanes.
Focus and Motivation
Critical Risk Assessment