Johan is flying Cape to Cape in a plane from 1935
As a boy, Johan Wiklund devoured books about the fictional English war hero Biggles. He dreamed of becoming a pilot and an adventurer. During his 26 years with SAS, Wiklund has been all over the world. But one dream has remained unfulfilled until now: recreating the remarkable feat Gösta Andrée pulled off 86 years ago. Andrée flew a Cirrus Moth biplane from Stockholm’s Barkaby Airport to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. And back again. Solo.
“When I read about Gösta Andrée in 2004,” Wiklund says, “I thought the trip would happen when I was retired and had the time and money. But about 18 months ago, a friend was selling his 1935 De Havilland 60 Moth, so I decided to seize the opportunity.”
As a child, Wiklund built model planes. When he grew up, he began rebuilding old airplanes. Flying them, he says, is a chance to discover history – and be truly in control.
“I love the sophistication of today’s planes,” he says. “We fly in all kinds of conditions, and it’s exciting to pilot these wonderfully built modern machines. Old planes, on the other hand, are simple: one person can maintain and fly them. You get a feeling for the whole plane: the vibrations, the smell, the view. You become one with the plane.”
Andrée’s original route
In September, Wiklund will become one with his rebuilt DH60 Moth when he sets out to follow Andrée’s original route as closely as possible.The first phase of the adventure actually already started in July this year, when Johan took off from North Cape in Norway. He will use the same navigation instruments as Andrée, and he’ll even be wearing a copy of his flying outfit.
It’s the adventure of a lifetime, but it’s not without its potential problems, particularly because Wiklund has no outside support and limited resources.
“The problems won’t happen in the air but on the ground,” he says. “It’s more and more difficult to get fuel for a plane like this; often, only jet fuel is available.” Wiklund has added two extra fuel tanks to the plane because of this.
“I may end up going to regular gas stations, filling up jerry cans and bringing them back to the airport,” he says. “The idea is to do like Andrée: just me, my brown suit and my airplane – I’ll deal with problems as they happen.”
Flying Cape to Cape isn’t Wiklund’s only goal: he’s also raising money for the “Make Reading Cool” project, which supports schools with limited resources in Red Hill, close to Cape Town.
It took Andrée six weeks and 130 flying hours to complete the trip in 1929. Wiklund hopes to land at the same time on the same day: 15.10 on October 24.
“The kids will be waiting when I land, along with my wife, children, sister and mother. One student will be chosen to go up in the plane with me. I’m just really happy to support such a great project while also having this fantastic adventure.”
This is Johan Wiklund
Age: 47 (will turn 48 during the trip)
Career: SAS pilot since 1989. Motorcycle enthusiast and dedicated adventurer. Took leave of absence to sail from Sweden to the West Indies with his brother in the early 2000s.
Family: Wife Lena, two children, 9 and 11
Born: Kiruna, Sweden
Lives: Malmö, Sweden