Tucson, Ariz. – Faith Vilas successfully made a water landing near Chicago’s Navy Pier this morning, recreating the flight her grandfather and pioneer aviator Logan A. (Jack) Vilas made July 1, 1913 to become the first person to fly an airplane across Lake Michigan.
Vilas, a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, made the flight to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her grandfather’s groundbreaking feat.
She flew a Cessna 185 seaplane from Southwest Regional Airport in St. Joseph/Benton Harbor, Mich., to the Navy Pier in Chicago Ill.
“I am so glad to complete this journey successfully on the 100th anniversary of my grandfather's landing – at that time, the longest flight over water in aviation history,” Vilas said. “This is the culmination of years of work on the part of admirers of Jack’s accomplishment, and it is great to complete this effort on behalf of family and friends, and especially in honor of my grandfather, Jack Vilas.”
Vilas held a press conference in the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom before heading off to a reception in the Navy Pier Lakeview Terrace attended by family, friends and well-wishers.
The 64-mile Lake Michigan flight, accomplished under windy conditions, marks the successful end of two years of training and preparation for Vilas, whose future aviation goals are aimed even higher.
She is eager to go up into space as part of PSI’s Atsa Suborbital Observatory project that will see scientists and students operate a telescope while aboard a reusable spacecraft, XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx. Vilas is a founder of and Project Scientist on the Atsa project.
Atsa will provide low-cost space-based observations above the limiting atmosphere of Earth, while avoiding some operational constraints of satellite telescope systems such as the inability to observe objects close to the Sun.
“It will be fantastic to fly and use the Atsa in suborbital space,” she said. “Open human spaceflight is our future.”