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Teen sets record as youngest pilot to circle the globe

At an age when most kids are just learning how to drive, Matt Guthmiller was learning how to fly
Teen pilot becomes youngest to fly around the world 03:26

At an age when most kids are just learning to how to drive, Matt Guthmiller was learning how to fly.

Now he's a world record holder.

At 19, Guthmiller is the youngest pilot ever to circumnavigate the globe, and he did it alone, CBS News' Carter Evans reports.

The South Dakota teenager, who flew 30,000 miles, making 23 stops in 15 countries on five continents, got both praise and his fair share of criticism for embarking on the journey.

"It's too risky, or this is just some spoiled, rich brat going out and having a good time," Guthmiller said.

But the young pilot didn't let skeptics get to him.

"It was certainly a lot of fun. I had a good time, but it was a lot of work, and I hope that what I did inspires other people to go out and do big things," Guthmiller said.

The teen was inspired to fly at an early age, first asking his parents to eat at airport cafes. Later, he pushed for flying lessons.

"They agreed to let me do this little $20, 20-minute, intro flight, but I think they probably thought that was just going to be the end of it," Guthmiller said.

It wasn't. He soon made a deal to get more time in the cockpit.

"Things like a little arrangement where I'd share a car with my dad throughout high school instead of having my own car," Guthmiller said. "In exchange, I get to fly planes."

By the age of 17, the teen had his pilot's license and two years later leased a single-engine Beechcraft for his solo flight around the world. The MIT student performed plane maintenance and his own fuel calculations.

Flying into the clouds was both beautiful and dangerous. Air-traffic controllers in other countries did not have the weather radar to help him navigate around thunderstorms.

"I have no idea which clouds are just a little bit higher than where I'm at and which ones go up to 45,000 feet and will break the plane apart," Guthmiller said.

Recently, 17-year-old Haris Suleman died after crashing his plane on what Guthmiller calls the most difficult leg of his own journey, American Samoa to Hawaii. Guthmiller flew from the same airstrip as Suleman and said the takeoff is technically challenging because of the heavy fuel load needed for the 16-hour stretch.

In spite of the risks and even a fear of heights, Guthmiller succeeded in breaking the record and raising money for computer science education through He's a coder himself who started his own tech company at the age of 12.

Today, Guthmiller's goals are as sky-high as ever.

"I think it would be really cool to start the next Apple, but we'll see how that goes," he said. "I guess that's kind of how I look at everything. Shoot for the stars, you get somewhere good."

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