In 1994, Fred Lasby, a longtime resident of Oliver, was 82 years old when he entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest person to fly around the world solo. His reason for doing the flight was very simple. He was bored.
“That’s Fred,” said his wife, Phyllis Head-Lasby, with a laugh. “He was always doing something.”
Phyllis now lives here in Nakusp at Halcyon House. She moved here after Fred died to be closer to her family.
Fred was born in Tuxford, Saskatchewan. His parents were English immigrants. He eventually made his way to Nakusp.
Fred became interested in flying when he was growing up in Saskatchewan, on a farm just north of Moose Jaw. He dug ditches to make money for flying lessons in Moose Jaw. Fast forward several decades to when Fred decided to take the big flight. In an essay about his journey, he wrote that preparations first began in early 1993.
“Most important for my trip was to have my aircraft, a 260B, N9250 P (a Piper Commanche), fit for the journey before departing,” he wrote. “I compiled a list of what I wanted done, and it took a year to get everything finished and ready to go.”
Some of the things needed for the plane was a new alternator, vacuum pump, a GPS, and several spare parts such as tires, spark plugs, vacuum pump, batteries, and two cases of oil for oil changes and top ups.
“He actually stripped it right down to the frame and did the whole thing all over,” said Phyllis. “He was very knowledgeable, and was very smart on mechanics.”
The journey was almost two months, starting from Fort Meyers, Florida on June 30, and finishing up on August 20 at the same location. His flight was arranged through Jeppesen Data Plan. The total distance flown was 23,218 nautical miles through 13 countries, including the Soloman Islands, Australia, Singapore, India, Egypt, and Italy.
While Fred was flying, Phyllis was busy working as a nurse in Tampa. Throughout his flight, Fred always stayed in contact with his wife.
“When he got to his destination, every night he faxed home how he felt, how the weather was, whatever happened in the time he was flying.”
Phyllis said she was never lonely because she knew she would be hearing from him each night.
There were definitely some crazy moments throughout the journey. In India, he was engulfed by monsoon rains, which set his arrival time back by more than two hours, making that leg of his journey the longest at 13 hours and 52 minutes. Four hours before landing in Bahrain, he was challenged by ground control that he did not have permission to land. He had to dig through papers to find the dates when permission was first issued before receiving word that he was approved. The landing for that section of the trip was two hours after dark, and was the end of his hardest trip.
“I felt terrible,” he wrote. “My head ached, and my eyes were sore from constant instrument scanning. After landing, I got off the runway and sat for about ten minutes with my landing lights still on because I did not know where to taxi.”
Fred came back to Fort Meyers, where family, along with the media and many friends welcomed him home. After a few years, the Lasbys moved back to British Columbia and settled in Oliver.
Fred died in 2007, one month before his 95 birthday.
Though it has been 22 years since his record breaking flight, it’s a record he still holds to this day.