Thorbjornsen brought his ACH130 Aston Martin Edition to the show, marking the type’s debut in Singapore. Photo: Emma Kelly

Australian tech entrepreneur John-Paul Thorbjornsen signed a deal with Airbus Corporate Helicopters at this week’s Singapore Air Show for an ACH125 and announced plans to launch an expedition with the helicopter and his existing ACH130 Aston Martin Edition to circumnavigate the globe from the North Pole to the South Pole in 2026.

Thorbjornsen brought his ACH130 Aston Martin Edition to the show, marking the type’s debut in Singapore. He took delivery of the helicopter last year, and rather than have it delivered to his home in Darwin, he flew it 10,000 nm across 21 countries in 41 days from Oxford to Darwin. Thorbjornsen said he was inspired by Australian aviator Dick Smith to make the journey.

His latest expedition will comprise a 30,000 nm, six-month journey around the world via both the North and South Poles, covering seven continents and 50 countries and crossing the equator three times. He plans to leave Darwin in the first quarter of 2026.

The helicopters will require a range of modifications for the trip, including extended cargo pods, floats, radar altimeters, UHF marine radio, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, autopilot, synthetic terrain vision, ferry tanks and bear paws for snow landing.

The most challenging part of the journey will be between South Africa and Antarctica, with Thorbjornsen planning to position barges with fuel to allow the helicopters to land and refuel. This will be required three times during the 2,000 nm section of the journey.

Thorbjornsen is not seeking to set any records on the expedition. “This is about going on a journey and sharing it with the world,” he said, with a camera and video crew set to document it. He is recruiting a pilot for the second helicopter, with Thorbjornsen seeking a Northern Hemisphere pilot with a non-overlapping set of experience to his own.

Airbus concedes nothing like this has been previously attempted with its helicopters, although the Ecureuil is designed for extreme environments and has several altitude records, including landing on Mount Everest at 8,848 metres. Thorbjornsen will fly past Everest but will not reach that high and stresses, “We will fly as high as we can safely.”

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