A Swiss aviator attempting to circumnavigate the world in 20 months in a lightweight two-seater aircraft died Saturday after crashing into a volcano in central Ecuador, officials said.
Eric Guilloud, 62, was declared dead following the accident in Cotopaxi province, Ecuador's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a statement.
An aide to the pilot said Guilloud's Aerospool WT9 Dynamic aircraft had slammed into the Cotopaxi volcano shortly after taking off from Latacunga airport south of Ecuador's capital Quito.
Sixteen soldiers went to the site to try to save him, the aviation agency said.
Guilloud had been attempting to fly around the globe in a series of stages over 20 months.
He had already flown through several countries in Europe and Africa before reaching South America, where he flew over Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
He was en route to the city of Tabacundo, northeast of Quito, when his plane crashed.
According to a blog maintained by the aviator, money raised through his marathon odyssey were to go towards funding orthopedic surgeries in central Burkina Faso.
Guilloud, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur, had planned to visit 34 countries aboard the lightweight aircraft he had nicknamed "Baby."
He said he would fly a total of 76,000 kilometers (47,200 miles), clock 384 flight hours and perform 106 landings, DGCA said.
His two-seater plane had enough space for just a suitcase and a small refrigerator.
Guilloud decided to fly around the world after a close friend died in a plane accident, motivating him to see the world from the sky in honor of his companion.
Ecuador's aviation agency said Guilloud's enthusiasm for all things that fly started as a young man.
"His passion for soaring in the air dates back to his youth. At 23, he started hand-gliding and won the Swiss championship in 1976," DGCA said.
"And now at 62, he chose to fly over mountains and oceans from his ultralight plane."