Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – Ravinder Bansal, Aviation Pioneer

In 2017, entrepreneur and amateur pilot Ravinder Bansal set a new record as the first person of Indian origin to complete a solo flight around the world in a single-engine plane. Bansal was born in the city and municipal corporation of Ambala in India in 1949. By the 1970s, he had made his way to the United States to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Bansal graduated from that educational institution in 1977 with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. It was during Bansal’s time at Georgia Tech that he learned how to fly and earned his pilot’s license.

After completing his doctorate studies, Bansal moved to New York, to work for the multinational chemical company Linde plc in Buffalo in Erie County. He helped establish AirSep Corporation, a medical and industrial oxygen concentrator company, in Amherst, New York, in 1987. Bansal served as the chief executive officer of that company until it was acquired by Chart Industries in 2012. Bansal has also been extensively involved in philanthropic activities in the Empire State, and was formally recognized for those efforts in 2009 with the Walter P. Cooke Award from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

After six months of preparation, Bansal began his pioneering flight across the globe on Independence Day in 2017. He took off from Buffalo in a Cessna 400 single-engine piston aircraft. Bansal ultimately covered 21,738 nautical miles (40,258.8 kilometers) altogether during his worldwide trip. He logged a cumulative flight time of nearly 136 hours and made a total of 36 stops in 19 countries along the way. Bansal completed this flight on August 20.

Shortly after the successful end of that trip, Bansal spoke to WIVB-TV in Buffalo about his motivations for undertaking such a journey. He said, “A lot of people ask me, why do you do this? You’ve got to be a little crazy you know. Why do you climb a mountain? Because it’s there.” Bansal likewise made it clear, however, that he also undertook the flight to raise both public awareness of breast cancer and money to help combat that disease. Bansal, who had lost a sister-in-law to complications from breast cancer, was able to use his circumnavigation of the globe to raise $160,000 for an MRI machine for the Rotary Cancer Hospital in his hometown of Ambala. This machine is now used by the hospital to help with the early detection of cancer.

About three weeks after completing the flight, Bansal was presented with a resolution by the Erie County legislature for his airborne achievement and determined fight against breast cancer. Bansal’s trailblazing status as the first person of Indian origin fly solo around the world also earned him a place in the 2020 edition of the Limca Book of Records (an India-based version of the Guinness Book of World Records). In addition, Bansal has written about his worldwide flight in a 2019 book entitled Cleared Direct Destination.

Photo Credit: Ravinder Bansal (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license at Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International — CC BY-SA 4.0)

For more information on Ravinder Bansal and his 2017 flight around the world, please check out Ravinder Bansal – Wikipedia

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