“I guess on my bucket list has always been flying around the world. And I’ve always thought, it wouldn’t be great to be able to spend more time when you go to these great places and you kind of gas and go. And it wouldn’t be great to have the rest of the family along.” —Ian Porter

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Summer is coming, soon it’ll be time to throw all the gear in the van, make sure everyone’s strapped in and off you go on your family adventure.

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Only you’re not hitting the road, your van is a GA8 AirVan, a single-engine plane that will carry you over five continents in a 22-month, round-the-world trip, while raising money and awareness for a charity that takes care of orphans and abandoned children.

The goal is to raise $1 million during the expedition for SOS Children’s Villages, Ian Porter, 59-year-old dad and chief pilot, said. Not as well-known in Canada as elsewhere, the charity offers safe homes to 80,000 orphaned or abandoned children in 130 countries, providing shelter, food and a mother to care for them.

Porter has donated a couple of previous fundraising flights, one around the tip of South America and one around Alaska.

“I guess on my bucket list has always been flying around the world,” he said. “And I’ve always thought, it wouldn’t be great to be able to spend more time when you go to these great places and you kind of gas and go.

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“And it wouldn’t be great to have the rest of the family along.”

Those concepts merged into this one idea, so he approached his wife Michelle: Time flies, he said, kids grow up, they’re going to go off and get jobs, get married.

“There’s a limited time to do another cool thing, so what about we take a year and we fly around the world.”

Michelle was all for it, and they discussed it with Chris, 14, Sydney, 17, and Samantha, 21.

“They all kind of thought about it, and said ‘yeah.’”

The Porters: Sydney (left), Samantha, Michelle, Ian and Chris.  Photo: Ian Porter
The Porters: Sydney (left), Samantha, Michelle, Ian and Chris. Photo: Ian Porter Photo by Ian Porter /PNG

Porter has been flying since he was a teen, and the timing of their planned June departure for their first leg through the Americas couldn’t be better, he said.

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Sydney and Samantha are pilots themselves — both started lessons and obtained their licenses at the same time.

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Samantha, a third-year geography student studying environment and sustainability at UBC just finished her last final exam of the semester and can get some experience doing field work before returning for her fourth year.

For Sydney, it’ll be a gap year like no previous gap year, and both girls will co-pilot and navigate.

Chris will complete Grade 10 online during the circumnavigation.

In the air his responsibility is making sure there’s always a working radio frequency and that the satellite tracking is functioning properly, while helping his mom figure out logistics of where to stay when they land.

“It’s going to be amazing,” Chris said, a sentiment his sisters share. “We’re going around the world, that’s crazy. All the different experiences and all the different countries I’m going to see, I’m just so excited.”

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Flying a single engine airplane around the world is in itself a huge undertaking. It’s unclear exactly how many such flights have been completed by single-engine aircraft, but the number is probably only 500-600 since the dawn of flight, Porter said.

“Far more people have successfully summited Mt. Everest than have flown a single engine aircraft around the world.”

And most round-the-world flights take the most direct path as possible, often with temporary auxiliary long-range fuel tanks for long ocean crossings.

Most are also completed under instrument flight rules, meaning the plane can climb above weather and fly a long time at altitude.

“Flying a single-engine aircraft around the world with a family of five on-board, maintaining visual reference to the surface at all times, may never have been achieved before.”

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There aren’t many single-engine aircraft capable of completing an expedition like this, Porter said, and he put a lot of thought into it before settling on the Gippsaero GA8AirVan, an Australian plane designed for use in remote areas with sketchy airstrips. It can cruise at 125 knots (220 kilometers an hour) for up to five hours and climb to 20,000 feet.

“It is a cool plane to fly,” Sydney said.

Map showing the two legs of the Porter family's round-the-world flight in a single-engine plane.  Leg 1 is scheduled to begin in June, 2022, and the five-member clan plan to return to Vancouver by August, 2023.
Map showing the two legs of the Porter family’s round-the-world flight in a single-engine plane. Leg 1 is scheduled to begin in June, 2022, and the five-member clan plan to return to Vancouver by August, 2023. PNG

Initially, the crew planned to head east for the first leg of the journey, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put and end to that, so Europe and Asia will now be the second leg, with time in airspace over India and Egypt, although there will still be a tiny bit of Russia the Porters will have to fly over before they can fly to Japan and then Alaska.

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And while the circumnavigation will be a unique adventure for the family, they have traveled en masse since the kids were babies.

“I’ve been traveling and going on absolutely incredible vacation expeditions, we’re so lucky to have parents who love adventure,” Samantha said. “I’ve gained different outlooks, different cultures from different people.”

In all, the journey will cover roughly 45,000 nautical miles (80,000 kilometers).

The family has planned the trip as safely as can be, with the latest in high-tech electronics and survival gear — including a raft. Giving themselves 14 months also allows for flexibility to depart on flights only when the weather and other factors make it safe to do so.

Personal possession will be kept to 10 kilograms each.

“We would really like to turn the Vancouver population on to SOS Children’s Villages, to, we hope, sponsoring or donating,” Michelle Porter said. “It all goes to SOS Children’s Villages.

“They do amazing humanitarian work and they need our help.”

[email protected]

twitter.com/gordmcintyre

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