“If you have the dream, or hopes, just try that,” Shinji Maeda said. “Put the effort to make that happen, not sit and complain about your life. That’s the whole purpose of this flight.”

Maeda, 41, is an engineer for Boeing, a one-eyed pilot, a flight instructor, and recently completed a 43-day flight around the world.

His last stop before flying home and completing his journey was in Wrangell last Friday.

His flight brought him to 18 different countries in a single-engine 1963 Beechcraft Bonanza named Lucy. The trip, and his life story, was to prove that anything can be possible with enough perseverance.

Maeda grew up in Japan and always dreamed of flying as a kid, he said. The pursuit of that dream, however, was interrupted when he lost the use of his right eye in a 1998 car accident. The anniversary of the accident was Friday, June 11.

His loss of eyesight in one eye meant he could no longer become a pilot under Japan’s regulations. This was a challenging time for him, he said, but he was able to persevere and pursue new opportunities.

“I was very disappointed, I was about to commit suicide and give up my life,” Maeda said. “That was a very painful experience. However, after I graduated university, I came to the United States. American people are really unique and interesting. … When I said I am one-eyed, people’s reaction was like, ‘OK, so? What’s the issue?’”

Upon moving to the United States and gaining citizenship, Maeda continued to pursue his dreams. According to his website, he obtained his pilot’s license in 2005 and is now a flight instructor at Snohomish Flying Service in Washington state. He also works as an engineer for Boeing, he said.

The idea for a flight around the world came from his mentor, who completed the flight in 2016.

A bigger reason was the loss of his father about three years ago to cancer. His father had emphasized how much adversity Shinji had overcome, and how he needed to continue and share his story. So, modifying and upgrading Lucy for the journey, he created the Aero Zypangu Project to help share his story and the flight around the world.

“‘Aero’ means aviation, sky,” he said. “‘Zypangu’, I’m from Japan. Japan used to be called ‘Zypangu’ a long, long, long time ago. When European people found Japan they named it Zypangu, so I picked Zypangu from it.”

The trip took about 43 days, Maeda said. The Bonanza cruises at just under 200 miles per hour, and he took time on some of his stops to visit — and sleep.

He took off from Washington on May 1 as he headed eastward. His flight took him to 18 different countries, including Iceland, Greece, Egypt and more, which he filmed for his website. It is another example of how things can become possible through hard work, he said.

“If you want to be something, why don’t you try now? Why don’t you try that? That is exactly the reason why I flew around the world, telling the story, ‘Hey, yeah life is not fair, life is tough, but why don’t you challenge yourself?’ In my case aviation saved my life, and America gave me the second chance of my life. This is the beauty of this country.”

More about Maeda, his story and his flight can be found online at www.aerozypangu.com.

“I have family,” he said. “I have a wife, a son and daughter, dogs, friends, coworkers, the neighborhood, pretty much everybody is supporting each other. That is the most important thing. Like living here, you guys know everybody. Everybody knows everybody and helps each other. I think that is the most important thing in our life.”