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99-Year-Old Pilot Is Going The Distance For 2 World Records


Robina Asti has lived much of her life in the sky.

ROBINA ASTI: Did you ever see a completely rainbow? It's a complete circle.

MARTIN: She's a pilot with stories from all over the world.

ASTI: I mean, places in Africa, as far as places of South America, the South Pole, up around the North Pole.


Now Robina is 99, and she's trying to break two world records - oldest active pilot and oldest active flight instructor.

ASTI: Every time I take off - throttle pull in, power full on - I'm listening to that engine because it's whispering to me sweet little lullabies. And I can sense it's going to take off the ground, and that is a feeling that I'm always wanting to feel. Nothing like doing it.

KING: In order to set those records, she recently gave a lesson to Brandon Martini. Brandon owns NextGen Flight Academy in California, and he has flown thousands of hours. But Robina taught him a thing or two.

BRANDON MARTINI: It was pretty neat seeing somebody who's 99 years old who has been flying all their life and they still have the passion for aviation.

MARTIN: Robina Asti was born in 1921 and served in the Navy in World War II as a man. After the war, she started a family, ran a mutual fund and became a commercial pilot. She began her gender transition in the 1970s, and in 2014, she won a legal battle with the Social Security Administration, helping secure survivors benefits for transgender spouses.

KING: What a life. Asti says, yes, she would love to get those Guinness World Records for flying. But, really, she's doing it for the kids.

ASTI: It doesn't mean anything to me. It's for you guys that are coming behind me that you've got something you could shoot for. And I hope that the record is broken pretty soon - and by another woman would be fun, wouldn't it?

MARTIN: Indeed. Robina Asti, World War II veteran and 99-year-old pilot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.