YUMA, Ariz. â€” Albert and Sharon Gardner, former Blackfoot residents who now live in Arizona, returned to Yuma this week after flying nearly 12,000 miles -- equal to traveling halfway around the world. The trip was the culmination of a longtime desire that Albert had to land his airplane in every contiguous state of the Union. The plane is a home-built craft that he constructed in his garage. Prior to this summer he had landed the plane in every state west of the Mississippi.
Albert said, â€śSharon and I had talked about the feasibility of taking the time and having the finances to complete my dream. We aren't getting any younger, so decided that 2011 is the year for us to complete our 'landing in every state' goal.â€ť
Sharon said, â€śWhile planning the itinerary we were eager to include a flight up the Mississippi River, a flight down along the Hudson to see how they looked from the air, and to visit with many friends and family!â€ť
Albert was born and raised in Blackfoot and met Sharon in England where they were both working. They lived in Blackfoot for 20 years where they raised their three children and owned the Mini-Barn before moving to the Midwest and South where Sharon took administrative positions in the hospital industry. They have lived in Yuma for 11 years.
This summer's journey began before dawn July 20 when Albert and Bob Noll, an Arizona friend, flew Albert's aircraft from Yuma to Vernal, Utah, landing in 13 Utah airports that day!
He said, â€śThis was just about the most takeoffs and landings that I've ever done in one day.â€ť
They continued to Oshkosh, Wisc., to participate in EAA AirVenture, known as the â€śWorld's Greatest Aviation Celebration.â€ť This is the mecca for home-built and experimental aviation. â€śSleeping in a tent under the wing of the airplane and visiting with other aviation enthusiasts for the duration of the air show is just about as fun as anything I can think of,â€ť Albert said.
At the conclusion of the Oshkosh adventure, Bob returned to Arizona, and Sharon met up with Albert to continue the trip east.
Sharon is Vice President Human Resources at Yuma Regional Medical Center, and used her accrued vacation to take time to accompany her pilot husband. In the subsequent five weeks they landed in100 cities in 37 states.
Sharon said, â€śWe did meet our goal of completing landings in every state in the Union, and concluded the summer trip with flights to several Western States where we had already made landing, primarily to visit with family and friends. We ended up flying from Coast to Coast and from the Mexican Border to Canada â€“ and all the country in between!â€ť