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Alumna sets record for flight around the world

CarolAnn Garratt with co-pilot Carol Foy

CarolAnn Garratt (left)
with co-pilot Carol Foy (Larger image)

Decorative initial cap It takes eight days, 12 hours, 18 minutes and 53 seconds to fly west around the world. At least it did for CarolAnn Garratt (BS '77), who set a new world record for flying her single engine plane around the globe in the shortest amount of time in December 2008. Her flight, which shattered the previous record of 11 days, was not only a race against the clock but a mission for a cause very close to Garratt: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

CarolAnn Garratt (with her single-engine Mooney M20J plane

Garratt with her single-
engine Mooney M20J plane (View larger image)

For Garratt, who lost her mother to ALS in 2002, more research to discover a treatment for ALS is crucial. ALS is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that leaves a patient entombed in a body that gradually shuts down motor function and eventually results in respiratory failure.

Garratt first flew around the world in her single-engine Mooney M20J to raise money for ALS research in 2003, shortly after her mother’s death. She spent seven months flying and stopping to meet people in countries ranging from Singapore to Djibouti to Greenland. She wrote a book about her journey, Upon Silver Wings: Global Adventure in a Small Plane, and donated all of the revenue to the ALS Therapy Development Foundation.

Garratt, who lives in a fly-in community near Gainesville, Florida, knew she wanted to fly around the world again. However, Garratt was the caretaker of her father, who inspired her love for aviation, and she couldn’t leave him for a long journey. So she decided to do it in a week.

Fellow pilot Carol Foy joined Garratt for the world-record flight, which took 18 months of preparation. The pair paid for all of the flight costs out of pocket to ensure all of the funds they raised would go directly to ALS research. Garratt attributes their successful run to thorough preparation and a low number of refueling stops—they only stopped nine times during the entire flight. The longest leg of their journey was the final one; Garratt and Foy flew almost 23 hours and more than 3,300 nautical miles nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean to complete the flight in Orlando, Florida.

CarolAnn Garratt with co-pilot Carol Foy

Garratt (and Foy) (View larger image)

Garratt, who has been flying since high school and obtained her pilot’s license shortly after graduating from UW-Madison, attributes her ability to plan and execute the flight to her engineering education. “Being an engineer is about using logical thought processes, and I had the background in problem solving and planning I needed for this trip,” she says. “It’s like managing a project—you have to figure out the details and the calculations and get everything ready.”

Garratt spent several years as a manufacturing engineer in a variety of companies that make industrial equipment, including John Deere. She now tours and gives presentations about her flights full time, and she has written a second book, Upon Silver Wings II: World-Record Adventure, about her 2008 journey. A DVD about the trip is also available.

To date, Garratt has raised more than $200,000 for ALS, most of which is from private, individual donors. She hopes to raise $1 million, and her next plan is to fly east around the world on a two-and-a-half-year journey and then write a third book. “When you’re flying, you realize how big the world is and how little of it we see,” she says. “I’m looking forward to getting to know people and other cultures like my first trip, but this one will be longer.”

For more information about Garratt’s flights and her efforts to raise funds for ALS research, visit




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Date last modified: Monday, 3-August-2009
Date created: 3-August-2009