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Armonk Native Relives Incredible Around The World Journey

Tom Casey piloted a floatplane around the world. Tom Casey piloted a floatplane around the world.
Tom Casey piloted a floatplane around the world. Photo Credit: Contributed
William Coleman, the author of "Floatplane Odyssey." William Coleman, the author of "Floatplane Odyssey."
William Coleman, the author of "Floatplane Odyssey." Photo Credit: Contributed

ARMONK, N.Y. -- William Coleman still can't believe he pulled it off.

The former Armonk resident helped organize a journey where Tom Casey became the first person to fly a single engine floatplane around the world, taking off and landing only on water.  

The 188-day journey, which took place in 1990, involved more than 75 takeoffs and landings on oceans, bays, lakes, and rivers in 20 countries, flying a total of more than 29,000 miles, often at a maximum speed of 144 mph.

He recently published his recollections in his new book "Floatplane Odyssey."

Coleman, a former pilot in the Navy, was a public relations executive with Phillips 66, the company that sponsored the trip. He was tasked with serving as behind the scenes route planner- coordinating entries and exits with countries and diplomats across the globe, helping Casey with his journey.

The U.S. government embraced the trip and Coleman said he had the support of then-Secretary of State James Baker and General Norman Schwarzkopf. 

Dealing with various countries had its unforeseen challenges. The journey took place during the middle of the Persian Gulf War, which made travel in the Middle East difficult. India had to be bribed to allow Casey through, and Coleman had to reach into his Rolodex to get Casey through Malaysia and onto the Philippines.

In Saudi Arabia, Casey needed back surgery, which was performed by the King's own surgeon. His roommate at the hospital was Idi Amin, the former dictator of Uganda. 

Russia had its own planes on Casey's tail since he unlawfully entered their airspace. Casey has to be snuck into Japan.

Over the Pacific Ocean, Casey experienced engine failure and was rescued and placed on Shemya Island at a top secret military base. 

"We had to hire a fishing boat to pick him up," Coleman said. "We had to stay at the military base while they got him a new engine."

"Where the heck is Casey," became a common refrain from Phillips during the trip as Coleman had to deal with one adventure after another.

"There were close to 100 times where I thought we were screwed," Coleman said. "I would have to tell my bosses that I didn't know where he is."

People have told Coleman that the book ends up being a real thriller.

"The trip meant constant contact with ambassadors around the world," Coleman said. "It was one of the most phenomenal things in my life. You go from one scene to another. It's an unbelievable story."

Coleman lived in Armonk for 33 years, moving to Kansas City for work.

"I love Armonk," Coleman said. "I miss my pizza. I miss going downtown and seeing people at the deli and getting a bacon egg cheese on a roll. You can't go out and get good pizza in Missouri."

A non-disclosure agreement prevented Coleman from writing the book until now. But once the contract ended, he jumped at the chance to tell his story.

"I called everyone I knew," Coleman said. "Most of the guys were still alive. People were excited to see the story get out."

To purchase Floatplane Odyssey, visit 

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