Jay Coburn

United States of America


Jay Coburn was a Vietnam War helicopter pilot and the copilot of Ross Perot, Jr. on the first flight circumnavigating the globe. This flight was performed in a modified Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II, which was given the nickname the Spirit of Texas.

Jay is also believed to have flown a helicopter in the rescue mission that freed two EDS (Electronic Data Systems) employees from captivity by the Iranian government in 1978. This Operation was non-governmental and was organized by Texas businessman and Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot, Sr.

In 1982 Jay Coburn and Ross Perot, Jr. heard of the plans of an Australian Entrepreneur, Dick Smith,  to be the first to circumnavigate the world in a helicopter while simultaneously promoting his business, Dick Smith Electronics. The two young Americans wanted to claim this great feat for their own country, and they quickly made arrangements to circumnavigate the world themselves.

They purchased a Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II with a fuel tank upgraded from 98 gallons to 250 gallons. They bought the helicopter directly from Bell for $750,000, which was paid for by Ross Perot, Sr. The two men began their journey from Dallas Love Field on September 1, 1982, and pursued the same northerly route that Dick Smith was following. Their first stop was in Canada, and afterwards they made their way across the Polar Ice caps and flew through Greenland and Iceland. From there they proceeded into Europe and flew through France, then across the Mediterranean into Egypt.  They then flew over the mid-East and entered into Asia where they landed in India, Burma, and Japan. Then, being denied landing in the Russian Kuril Islands, they landed on an American container ship in the North Atlantic. Finally, they arrived in Alaska and proceeded from there back to Dallas, TX.

This enterprise was completed on September 30, 1982, and was only successful due to the skill and flight experience of both Coburn and Perot. They held the Federation Aeronautique Internationale record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe, with an average flight speed of 56.97 kilometers per hour. Due to these achievements, Jay Coburn and Ross Perot Jr. were awarded the Igor I. Sikorsky National Trophy by AHS (now VFS) in 1983.

Swopes, B. R. (2016). Jay Coburn Archives. Retrieved June 12, 2019, from https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/jay-coburn/

Goodman, M., Goodman, M., Crain, Z., Crain, Z., Venkatraman, S., Downes, C.,…D Magazine. (1983, February). THE WHIRLY BIRD CAPER. Retrieved June 12, 2019, from https://www.dmagazine.com/publications/d-magazine/1983/february/the-whirlybird-caper/

UPI Archives. (1982,September 01) H. Ross Perot Jr., son of the computer magnate,…Retrieved June 12, 2019, from https://www.upi.com/Archives/1982/09/01/H-Ross-Perot-Jr-son-of-the-computer-magnate/6201399700800/



Milestones associated with Jay Coburn
September 30, 1982 First around the world helicopter flight completed (Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II)