(CNN) – Spending over a year flying around the world with your family in a small single-engine plane is something most people could only imagine.
But it’s very much a reality for the Porters, from Canada, who are currently about halfway through their 14-month trip around the world.
Ian Porter, who has been a private pilot for nearly four decades, his wife Michelle, daughters Samantha, 21, and Sydney, 18, who are also qualified pilots, and son Christopher, 15, departed Vancouver on June 15, 2022 . and since then “have basically been traveling every day.”
The family, who are taking a “low and slow” approach to travel, have already visited about 20 countries, including the United States, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras, and have flown over 25,000 naval vessels. miles.
Chief pilot Ian Porter with wife Michelle, daughters Samantha and Sydney, who act as his co-pilots, and son Christopher.
According to Ian, flying a single-engine plane around the world is a dream “that’s probably somewhere in the back of every pilot’s mind,” but he started looking at the prospect more seriously a few years ago after going on several trips to long distance fundraising.
A couple of years ago, the property developer, who had always wanted to spend more time traveling with his family, saw a “window of opportunity” with Samantha planning to take a year off from university and Sydney for to graduate from high school. .
Meanwhile, Christopher had just experienced a distance learning “dry run” during the pandemic, so he knew it was a viable option, while wife Michelle had been a full-time homemaker for several years.
Convinced that it was pretty much now or never, Ian soon began convincing the rest of the family to take the plunge.
Once everyone was on board with the idea, he was left with the tricky task of finding a suitable single-engine aircraft for the expedition.
Ian explains that he wanted to fly under visual flight rules, a set of rules under which a pilot flies an aircraft in weather conditions clear enough to see where they are going and does not need to submit and seek approval for plans the flight.
This is factored into their choice of aircraft as most aircraft used for round-the-world travel are larger and require pre-planned routes approved by air traffic controllers.
“Finding a plane that would take five people, survival gear and a reasonable amount of luggage wasn’t necessarily the easiest thing,” he admits.
He eventually came across a Gippsaero GA8 AirVan, a modern Australian-made aircraft, available for sale just a short distance from their home in Vancouver.
“I think it was a sign,” he says. “Here’s the plane – ride it or shut up.”
The Porters have already flown over 25,000 nautical miles and visited around 20 different countries.
The Porters then bought the plane, which they named Moose, for $500,000 and “the rest is history.”
Ian describes their single-engine utility plane, which can carry up to eight people and is capable of cruising at 220 kilometers per hour (125 knots) for up to five hours, as a “sport utility vehicle for the sky “.
“You can load it with stuff,” he says. “The only thing it doesn’t do is go very fast. So it fits well with our whole ‘low and slow’ modus operandi. It’s the perfect aircraft for this mission.”
While Ian acts as pilot-in-chief, Samantha and Sydney are his co-pilots, wife Michelle is responsible for health and visa paperwork as well as “everyday needs” and Christopher looks after their camera equipment when he’s not studying remotely. .
“My friends think we’re a bit crazy because of what we’re doing, but it’s definitely worth it,” says Samantha, who qualified to be a pilot in 2021 at the same time as her sister and colleagues. her. -pilot Sydney.
“There’s definitely little family squabbles. But I feel like that happens even when you’re at home and nothing’s really going on that intense.”
They say they currently average about an hour of flying per day and say they have already landed at more than 160 different airports.
“We haven’t planned anything too much because there are so many variables,” adds Ian, explaining that they are “always at the mercy of the weather”.
“It’s very difficult to plan too far in advance. We don’t have a set agenda and we don’t have fixed locations. [that] we’re actually going straight. We’re just following a very general path.”
“As well as being a great family adventure, we wanted to make it count for something,” explains Ian.
Five in the sky
“Looking at life from the sky is a truly unique experience and a different perspective,” says Michelle Porter.
The fact that they’ve been able to set aside a full 14 months to complete the journey has been hugely beneficial, as it means there’s time to take in the sights along the way without feeling like you have to rush.
The family has been put up in various campsites, hostels and hotels, and has occasionally been put up for the night by some of those who have followed their journey. They even spent Christmas in the Galapagos Islands.
“We’re not racing,” says Ian. “We don’t have to leave somewhere, and go somewhere else on a certain day. Because then you make bad decisions.”
Although Samantha and Sydney’s flying experience was relatively limited before the trip began, the pair say they have gained many new skills during the trip.
“The actual flying is just part of it,” adds Ian, who says his daughters have been “phenomenal”.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into it like weather control, navigation and radio work, especially when we’re flying in countries where we don’t speak the native language.”
Michelle admits it can be frustrating being one of the only non-pilots aboard Moose — Christopher also wants to get his pilot’s license in the future — but she’s enjoying watching her kids win more and more confidence in their abilities.
“Being a part of and supporting our kids’ growing confidence as pilots and adventure enthusiasts has been incredible,” she tells CNN Travel via email.
Flying to Cape Horn, known as the ‘southern tip’ of South America, last year, Samantha says she really began to appreciate what an incredible achievement the journey has been and will continue to be for each of the theirs.
“Going from the absolute top, the northernmost part of North America to the absolute southernmost, and what they call ‘the end of the world,'” she recounts.
“I was thinking, ‘Wow, not only is it so cute, but it’s so impressive. We’ve accomplished something so incredible as a family. And it’s just the beginning.'”
For Ian, flying through the fires of the Amazon rainforest was a particularly poignant moment, though for very different reasons.
“We’ve seen the Amazon on fire firsthand,” he says sadly. “I mean, it was absolutely breathtaking. It was close to four and a half solid hours flying through the smoke, seeing fires burning in every direction.
“It’s the stuff you read about in the papers and think about intellectually. But actually seeing it is just a different experience.”
Porters admit the journey has had its bumpy moments and the combination of being almost constantly on the move and dealing with so many different factors, including airport ground logistics as well as trying to stay healthy, has taken to its detriment at times.
“It’s been a real test of being comfortable with being uncomfortable in a way,” says Samantha. “I have experienced more things in the last seven months than I have ever experienced in my life or expected to have experienced.
“Different climates, different cultures and different countries. It’s been a big challenge.”
One of the biggest challenges they have faced has been the bureaucratic process that comes with flying a small plane in so many different countries, such as flight permits and visas.
“When you arrive at an airport, you’re basically at their mercy,” says Ian, adding that it can sometimes take up to three or four hours to navigate all the steps on the ground after landing at a particular destination.
However, he is extremely impressed with how the “crew” have coped with everything, and notes that viewers have commented on how well everyone works together, both on board and on the ground.
“A lot of people think when you’re flying around the world in a private single-engine plane that you’re on a luxury trip, staying in five-star accommodation and carrying your own bags,” he adds.
“I mean, you can do it. But we’re doing everything ourselves. Everybody’s pulling together. We go ahead and do it.”
Michelle notes that the aviation community has been extremely supportive and helpful to them throughout the journey.
“We have met the most incredible people,” she adds.
Currently in Belize, the Porters say they will likely go to Guatemala next, before flying to Mexico. Next, they plan to fly to Eastern Canada, before crossing the North Atlantic via Greenland, Iceland and then across Europe.
From here, they’ll likely fly through Egypt, the Middle East, India and Japan, though they say the exact route “will always evolve.”
Some further sections are still uncertain due to the fact that Russian airspace has been closed to a number of different countries, including the US and Canada, since early 2022 as a result of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“The logical route for us is to go to eastern Russia and then Alaska,” explains Ian.
“But now, Russian airspace is closed to us. So it’s a question mark, for which we don’t have a solution at the moment.”
They estimate they will return to Canada at the end of August.
While Ian admits it has been more difficult than he originally expected, he is thrilled with how everyone has come together and is grateful to be sharing the experience with his wife and children.
“Those bureaucratic three- to four-hour waits can become unbearable after a while if you do it yourself,” he says.
“But at least if you hang out with your family, you can play some cards or whatever.”
Samantha is also very aware of how lucky they are to have the opportunity to see the world together in such a unique way and says that she and her sibling have learned a lot from the experience.
“We definitely face our challenges,” says Samantha. “But honestly, I’ll look back on these experiences and miss spending all these days with my family.
“Being able to explore places that I never would have expected to explore and having a plane to go to such remote places.”
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