WASHINGTON – Rep. Steve Pearce returned to Washington on Tuesday night after spending the past 2½ weeks on a secret, solo mission to fly a plane around the globe in remembrance of American veterans.
The New Mexico Republican and Vietnam veteran covered a lot of miles but suspended his journey in Spain on Monday because poor weather conditions had slowed him down and the U.S. House was set to reconvene Tuesday.
Pearce departed from Nevada on March 27 in a Mooney M20M Bravo plane, which is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and known for its long-distance fuel tanks. The congressman’s flight path took him across the Pacific and through the Coral and Java Seas, across the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean to Europe, where he ended his journey – at least for now – in Spain.
“Unfortunately, heavy headwinds and dangerous turbulence forced Pearce to not complete the final legs of the flight,” Pearce’s office said in a statement Tuesday. “While Pearce was unable to complete his journey this week, he is committed to finishing, not allowing adverse weather or any other challenges stand in his way.”
Pearce’s office said he came up with the idea during a ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans about a year ago. The House has been out of session for its annual Easter recess since the congressman’s secret trip began. News of Pearce’s journey was first reported by Tom Joles of KOB-TV Monday night. The trip was kept secret from the public for security reasons, according to his office.
“Why the need for secrecy?” KOB-TV quoted Pearce as saying. “There are people around the globe who literally make a lot of money kidnapping and extorting that sort of thing. To have a high-visibility figure who is traveling without a security detail, there are a lot of places in the world where that would draw great attention.”
Pearce, a former Air Force pilot who owns his own plane, stopped to symbolically leave memorials along the way to remember veterans and honor their sacrifice along his journey, his office said.