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Pilot who flew solo around world at 19 inducted into South Dakota hall of fame

Matthew Guthmiller of Aberdeen was one of three inductees into the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame on Sept. 7 in Spearfish. Courtesy photo

ABERDEEN, S.D. — An Aberdeen pilot who became the youngest to fly around the world at 19 has earned a seat among South Dakota aviation giants.

Matthew Guthmiller, now 24, is likely the youngest inductee into the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame, according to Ted Miller, the organization's president. Guthmiller was inducted along with Delbert Kolb of Sturgis and Edward Ludtke of Sioux Falls on Sept. 7 in Spearfish.

He was not only the youngest to complete a solo flight around the world, he is also the first from South Dakota to achieve the feat, Miller said.

That solo flight was in 2014. It was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. It was eclipsed by an Australian pilot in 2017.

"It's a tremendous honor," Guthmiller said of his induction into the hall of fame.

He said if he is indeed the youngest inductee, the honor isn't lost on him. Especially after reading the bios of past inductees.

"I've got some big shoes to fill," Guthmiller said.

He said the recognition is also a bit surprising as one of the inductees, Delbert Kolb, was honored posthumously for his contributions to aviation.

"It's quite a feat at that age and for anybody," Miller said of Guthmiller's solo flight.

Guthmiller took off from California on May 31 and landed back in the U.S. on July 14. It's a trip that took a year to plan, Miller said, and required the installation of a special fuel tank so Guthmiller could complete the longest leg of his journey — a 2,300-mile flight across the Pacific Ocean. Because that tank put his plane over weight, Miller said, Guthmiller had to look for longer runways and get special permits for overweight aircraft. He also had to get special permission to fly in and out of foreign countries.

His nomination was submitted by former South Dakota Gov. Frank Farrar. In a phone interview Thursday, Farrar, who is also a pilot, said Guthmiller first visited with him when he was 16, asking about flying around the world.

At the time, Guthmiller asked about finding a plane that could be used on the flight. Farrar said that's a challenge because any plane would need to be retrofitted with a larger fuel tank.

Guthmiller made 23 stops during his trip. His longest flight was 16 hours across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu to California.

Farrar, who has logged 25,000 hours of flying time, and crashed about a half dozen times, said if anyone is deserving of the state Aviation Hall of Fame honor, it's Guthmiller. Farrar even thinks Guthmiller would be a great candidate for the world aviation hall of fame.

"I think he's going to go on to do greater things," Farrar said.

Miller said anyone can submit a nomination for the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame. Many are submitted by family, relatives or acquaintances. Selections are decided by a six-member committee. Plaques for all honorees are on display at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum near the Ellsworth Air Force Base just east of Rapid City.

Since his solo flight, Guthmiller has continued to spread the word about aviation through a series of YouTube videos. His videos are 15 to 30 minutes and show a variety of places like Greenland and crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

Guthmiller said the sponsored YouTube videos have been a great way to share information about aviation. They have also been a way to capitalize on his interest in filmmaking. He started about three years ago after he noticed others who posted videos about flying places.

"I didn't know what YouTube was," he said. "I realized it was a platform where I could make content about where I was flying and get people more interested."