Arnold Palmer: Record-setting Round-the-world Flyer

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

Noted golfing great Arnold Palmer died recently.  His obituaries noted his golfing prowess and his success as a businessman, both in enterprises relating to golf and otherwise.

Palmer also held a world record for an around-the-world flight in a business jet.  The flight took place in May 1976.  The idea was born at an annual meeting of the Aviation/Space Writers Association and was partly in celebration of the U.S. bicentennial.  The Gates Learjet Corporation supported the idea and provided an airplane (a Learjet 36).  Palmer, along with Learjet Pilots James Bir and Lewis Purkey, took off from Denver, CO on May 17, 1976 and flew east, returning to Denver on May 19.  Their elapsed time – 2 days, 9 hours, 25 minutes, and 42 seconds – set a new record.

While there was minimal U.S. Government involvement, the Department of State did inform affected posts and the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (ARBA) gave the flight a level of official recognition as a bicentennial action.  The two telegrams that follow provide the background.

Page 01 State 117589, Arnold Palmer Global Tour
Page 02 State 117589, Arnold Palmer Global Tour
Page 01 State 117668, Around the World Flight
Page 02 State 117668, Around the World Flight


The two documents come from the Electronic Telegrams file of the Department of State’s Central Foreign Policy File, part of Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State.  Those records can be found online as part of the National Archives’ Access to Archival Databases (AAD) under “Diplomatic Records.”

I thank my colleague Jimmy Rush for bringing this event to my attention and for his assistance.