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Virtual flights around the world will fly for 7 days for charity

Multiple teams around the world will simultaneously simulate flights circumnavigating the world over 7 days, all to raise money for charity.
Virtual flights around the world will fly for 7 days for charity
Posted at 6:18 PM, Nov 06, 2023

High in the air, a 737 crew livestreams their flight — asking for money along the way. It's an unusual ask for pilots of an airliner. 

If you're paying attention, though, there's a lot unusual about this flight. 

For instance, it never actually leaves the garage. It's a fixed-base simulator of a 737. 

The shell comes from a retired Indonesian airliner. Each component inside is carefully curated from real, retired planes. 

"Before they sell the shell, they remove all the expensive components and they go back to other airplanes because they can still reuse them. But I was able to talk to the company who bought the seats and they were gonna sell them. But I talked to them and they sold them back to me. So I got the original seats back," said Fabian Betancur, an aviation enthusiast. 

This is one of 15 simulations like it flying virtually around the world — around the clock — for charity. 

"It allows a lot of sim enthusiasts who don't have the pilot ratings to learn how to work as a crew," said Shane Tillekeratne, a 737 captain. 

WorldFlight, as they call it, takes a circuitous route from Sydney across all seven continents and back to Australia. 

The teams are livestreaming their round-the-clock operation. Each are asking for donations for their selected charity. 

SEE MORE: American Airlines posts $545M loss after paying pilot bonuses

The team Scripps News met is raising money for Angel Flight West, a project organizing volunteer pilots to fly transport flights for patients who can't access or afford a way to reach their medical treatments. 

"They might be immune-compromised so somebody who's had a transplant of some kind can't fly commercially," said Cheri Cimmarrusti, Angel Flight West's associate executive director.

Russel Steingold made enough money in the fashion world to get himself a couple planes. 

"I've never been a fan of just flying around in circles. I prefer to have a mission of sorts," said Steingold. "The whole idea behind the concept was fashionable athletic wear." 

Now, he uses the planes to give back, working with Angel Flight West. 

"I had a particular guy who I flew quite a bit, who unfortunately passed away eventually. His wife still calls me to this very day, keeps in touch and she's interested in what's happening in my life," said Steingold. 

The money coming in through WorldFlight will help Angel Flight keep those planes in the air. 

"We had a couple of major medical facilities do some research for us. They looked at people who had to travel more than 100 miles who transportation was a barrier for. We're serving about 5% of those people," said Cimmarrusti. 

WorldFlight is trying to make as much of a dent as it can. It's a convening of enthusiasts and self-described plane geeks putting their passion to use, while making the dream of flight more accessible.

"You have to overcome the financial burden of learning how to fly, which is not getting any cheaper. But I feel like as long as someone has the passion, stuff like this allows them to live out their dreams a little bit," said Tillekeratne.

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