On this page...

Readers note: This is an excerpt from the Trailblazers: Australia’s 50 Greatest Explorers exhibition, developed in 2015. This content was written as a brief biography on why this person was included in the exhibition.

At 19, Ryan Campbell became the first teenager and youngest pilot to fly solo around the world.

On his return Campbell wrote the appropriately titled book, Born to Fly. His great-grandfather was on one of Kingsford Smith’s flights and, though he remained sceptical about flying, his joyflight inspired his son to become a pilot. It stayed in the blood. Ryan’s uncle is owner-operator of Merimbula Air Services and his father and two brothers also fly.

Ryan Campbell

In 2013, Ryan Campbell became the youngest person to fly solo around the world. Supported by Dick Smith.

Image: unknown
© Ryan Campbell

Ryan Campbell was born in Cooma (NSW) on 13 January 1994. On a family trip to Vanuatu when he was six, he felt the thrust of the engines push him back into the seat, and at 35,000 feet, was given a tour of the flight deck.

He was soon telling everyone that one day he would be a jumbo jet pilot. When he was 14, he learned of a 15-year-old Australian pilot. It had never occurred to him that you could gain a pilots licence before learning to drive.

After a short introductory flight, Campbell was away. He financed his flying lessons by working in supermarkets, oyster farms and washing trucks, and flew solo on his fifteenth birthday. He earned his private pilots licence at 17 and, thanks to an Australian Owners and Pilots Association scholarship, his commercial pilots licence the following year.

In 2013 Campbell set off on his record flight He hoped to demonstrate the accessibility of flying and prove that its possible to achieve your dream.

Departing from Wollongong (NSW) in the single-engine Cirrus Spirit of the Sapphire Coast, he returned 70 days later having completed 24,000 nautical miles in 70 days and logging 180 hours flying. He made 33 stops in 15 countries, taking up to four hours to refuel due to the plane’s huge tanks.

Among some tense moments, Campbell said the scariest was coming out of cloud over the glaciers of Greenland to discover his that his wings were icing up. He received a hero’s welcome and was named Australian Geographic Society’s Young Adventurer of the Year.

An ambassador for young pilots, Ryan Campbell and World Youth International have launched the Dare to Dream scholarship, to encourage young Australians to volunteer overseas and help others in the global community. “Not only am I trying to inspire youth to take flight, but for their dreams to take flight too, in whatever field that may be.”

Subscribe to our eNewsletter

Keep up to date on events, special offers and scientific discoveries with our What's On eNewsletter. Receive the latest news on school holiday programs and much more!

Sign up now