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VIDEO VAULT | Plane in record-breaking flight remains at McCarran as a piece of history

N9217B On Display at McCarran (KSNV file)

Walk through the baggage claim of Terminal One at McCarran Airport, and you might notice a Cessna 172 suspended from the ceiling. The model is common and affordable. This particular aircraft is at the Clark County Aviation Museum because 59 years ago, it set a record for a non-stop endurance flight which has not been broken since.

It started when pilots Bob Timm and Robert Cook needed a sponsor for the attempt, and found a willing casino owner who wanted some attention for his property on the far south end of the Strip.

"Doc Bailey was really into promoting himself and promoting the Hacienda," says Mark Hall-Patton. "So when Timm brought in the idea, he said, 'All right,' you know. And they put up a hundred thousand dollars to do the flight."

Hall-Patton directs the museum and says Timm had already tried to set the record a couple of times but was having trouble securing the right partner. Finally, he met Cook, and the two hit it off.

"You're looking at maybe the space of a VW Bug," reasons Hall-Patton. "And you're going to spend what turned out to be 65 days in that space. And you don't get away from each other in that kind of space. You've got to really go on with each other for that kind of flight."

The most crucial element of the plan was how to refuel without landing.

"John Cook would sit in the doorway, Bob Timm would fly," says Hall-Patton. "They'd drop down a rope, pull up a hose from this truck and just put it in the gas tank."

The attempt was well-documented at the time. Film shows the plane dipping down low and matching the speed of a truck on the highway below. A man in the back of the truck is wearing a helmet while he maneuvers the fueling equipment.

"It was necessary because we were working so close to him that at times, the airplane actually hit him on the head," explains Timm in an updated audio recording. "And we hit him on the head several times."

"So you've got the fuel going," says Hall-Patton. "They'd hand up food and water to them."

Then there's a key part of the operation that Hall-Patton says everyone wonders about.

"In terms of going to the bathroom, they had a folding camp stool that they used," he explains. "And they'd just bomb the desert."

By day 50, the record had been broken. But Timm and Cook kept going a couple of more weeks.

"At 64 days, they were not getting enough power out of the engine," says Hall-Patton. "They almost hit a fence post trying to come back up off the last refueling. They just said, 'That's it. We need to come down.'"

After a hero's return, Timm and Cook returned to their jobs. Three decades later, the plane was used to anchor the Cannon Aviation Museum.

"Whenever I'm out here, I see people in the exhibit," beams Hall-Patton. "And they're reading and they're reading a little bit about our history. And the nice thing is that what they're learning is that we have a history."

The flight lasted 64 days, 22 hours, and 19 minutes. The plane can be found along with its support car and plenty of other pieces of Southern Nevada's airborne past on the second floor of terminal one at McCarran at baggage claim.

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