An Open Letter to You
The Hope 100 Story explained by Mission Pilot Joe Burlas
To the hopeful and uninspired alike,
My name is Joe Burlas. I am an ordinary guy who fell in love with flying years ago. The story of The Hope 100, a project with the belief that flying has the power to illuminate the best in us, ironically began in my own darkest hour.
In July of 2015, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer just six weeks after his terminal diagnosis. He was my best friend and my biggest supporter during the trials in both life and the pursuit of my flying adventure.
Flash back to July 20, 2009, a week before I turned 24, an unprovoked feeling of discontentment came over me. As a boy I had always looked at the sky and wondered what it would be like to be up there; yet with every opportunity to answer that curiosity came with it a self-imposed reason to wait. Yet this time was different. This time I found myself unable to find an excuse big enough to override what I knew to be true; if you really want something badly enough then you'll find a way to do it.
I went to the airport having no idea with whom to speak but knew there was a person that could help. Sure enough, the first person I asked to point me in the right direction just happened to be a flight instructor. He became my flight instructor. That day he took me for a flight and it lit a fire in me. Prior to this day my focus was on self-improvement to find my next promotion. After that flight, all I could think about was flying. Aviation changed my life with one flight.
My father’s unwavering encouragement gave me courage and I applied to an aviation university, quit my job, packed my car, and filled my gas tank with the last of the savings. The next five years were filled with the full spectrum of human emotions. happiness and loneliness; achievement and failure; self-satisfaction and self-doubt.
Through it all, my father always reminded me that overcoming the hardships was where the real lessons were found and in May 2015, I finally graduated. I was a pilot with a master's degree in aviation. Most important of all, I was finally going to take my father flying. This was something I had promised for years but never found the time to do as I juggled school, family, and travel between the two worlds. Life happens fast, and May 2015 had other plans for us. A week after graduating, our family received my father’s terminal diagnosis.
My father never did get to go flying with his boy. Instead, what would have been our great celebration became the spark to ignite the project you see before you.
The Hope 100 is an endurance flight where we will fly for 100 continuous days without landing, in an attempt to break the Flight Endurance Record established in 1959 – 64 days, 22 hours, and 19 minutes non-stop in a Cessna 172.
The Hope 100 project was originally intended to be a tribute to my father. It was not intended to set a record. I wanted to organize a simple flight in an aircraft named after my dad, and "take him flying" while sharing a message of courage in the face of pain and fear. So I organized a meeting with 40 friends from flight school and told them my idea.
It wasn't long into my explanation, that I began to see, and hear, just how much this flight meant to my friends too. I wasn't the only one who had lost someone that meant so much nor was I the only one who saw aviation as a method to inspire others to listen to a message of hope. That night the flight became something much different. It was no longer my flight but instead my dream became theirs. It was our flight, and even more so for those reading this, it is your flight.
Whether or not you look up at the skies and have a longing to experience flight, it seems we humans have always been moved by the act of flying. Some of the biggest stories of the 21st century were daring acts of pushing the perceived boundaries of what was possible by people. When we thought we couldn't fly, two brothers showed the world and proved we actually could. When we were told that flying across the Atlantic ocean was too great of a challenge, Charles Lindbergh did so in a single engine aircraft that had some laughing at the little plane. When some said women and blacks were inferior, Amelia Earhart and the Tuskegee Airmen took aircraft into the skies in defiance of that thinking. Together the world watched in awe on July 20, 1969, as man stepped onto another world, showing humanity that it could indeed aspire to achieve their wildest aspirations if it only set out to do so.
Aviation has historically brought out the best in us. To go from our first flight to the moon brought out a passion in the human spirit. Still, times are changing. The romance and excitement of flying seems to be overridden with the economic climate of aviation. There's currently a shortage of pilots in America and each year it sees less people are entering training. Most people today aren't entertaining the possibility of flight. While there are many explanations for this, the main goal of The Hope 100 has become one that intends to showcase the adventure of flight and share with the public the passion of flight. Most people’s contact with aviation is through an extremely limited lens.
This flight is the realization that all these things are possible, and the recognition that there is still a flying adventure worth taking. The real adventure is inside each one of us and flying has historically been a conduit. The Hope 100 has slowly been pieced together over the last year and continues in the next. We are a small group of people who are in love with aviation and we believe it is our destiny to share with you this passion for the betterment of all of us.
Every person’s story is different and so too is each adventure into flight. The Hope 100 aims to inspire you. We invite you to take a chance on exploring aviation by following a flight that carries with it some inherent risks, and by donating to this adventure, knowing that all excess funds will be given to fight cancer.
Flying is Adventure right down the road.
Take a chance on yourself and open up your world.
With all my hope,