Spending over a year flying around the world with your family in a tiny single-engine aircraft is something most people could only imagine.
But it’s very much the reality for the Porters, from Canada, who are currently around halfway through a 14-month circumnavigation of the world.
Ian Porter, who has been a private pilot for around four decades, his wife Michelle, daughters Samantha, 21 and Sydney, 18, who also happen to be qualified pilots, and son Christopher, 15, set off from Vancouver on June 15, 2022 and have “been basically traveling every day since.”
The family, who are taking a “low and slow” approach to the trip, have already visited around 20 countries, including the United States, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras, and have flown over 25,000 nautical miles.
According to Ian, flying a single-engine airplane around the world is a dream “that’s probably somewhere in the back of the minds of all pilots,” but he began to look into the prospect more seriously a few years ago after going on a few long-distance fundraising trips.
A couple of years ago, the real estate developer, who had always longed to spend more time traveling with his family, saw a “window of an opportunity” with Samantha planning to take a year off from university and Sydney due to graduate from high school.
Meanwhile, Christopher had just experienced a “dry run” of remote schooling during the pandemic, so he knew that this was a viable option, while wife Michelle had been a full-time homemaker for a number of years.
Convinced that it was pretty much now or never, Ian quickly set about 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 regulations under which a pilot operates an aircraft in weather conditions clear enough to see where they are going and don’t need to file and seek approval for flight plans.
That factored into their choice of plane as most aircraft used for round-the-world trips are larger and require routes planned in advance and approved by air traffic controllers.
“Finding an airplane 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 aircraft manufactured in Australia, available for sale just a short distance away from their home in Vancouver.
“I think it was a sign,” he says. “Here’s the plane — either get on with it or be quiet.”
The Porters subsequently bought the aircraft, which they’ve nicknamed Moose, for $500,000 and “the rest is history.”
Ian describes their single-engine utility aircraft, 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 up with stuff,” he says. “The one thing it doesn’t do is go very fast. So it fits well with our whole modus operandi of ‘low and slow.’ It’s the perfect plane for this mission.”
While Ian acts as chief pilot, Samantha and Sydney are his co-pilots, wife Michelle is in charge of health documents and visas, as well as “day to day necessities” and Christopher takes care of their camera equipment, when he’s not studying remotely.
“My friends think that 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 back in 2021, at the same time as her sister and fellow co-pilot Sydney.
“There’s obviously the small family bickers. But I feel like that happens even when you’re at home and nothing is really happening that’s this intense.”
They say they’re currently averaging about an hour of flying per day and say they’ve already landed at more than 160 different airports.
“We haven’t overly planned anything, because there are so many variables,” Ian adds, explaining that they’re “always at the mercy of the weather.”
“It’s very difficult to plan too far ahead. We have no fixed agenda, and we have no fixed places [that] we’re actually heading to. We’re just following a very general route.”
The Porters aim to raise $1 million for SOS Children’s Villages, an international charity focused on supporting children in over 130 countries without parental care and families at risk, during the course of the trip.
“In addition to it being a great family adventure, we wanted to make it count for something,” explains Ian.