Spending more than a year flying around the world with your family in a tiny single-engine plane is something most people can only imagine.
But it's a reality for the Porters, from Canada, who are currently halfway through a 14-month trip around the world.
Ian Porter, a private pilot for some four decades, his wife Michelle, daughters Samantha, 21, and Sydney, 18, who are also certified pilots, and son Christopher, 15, left Vancouver on June 15. of 2022 and "have been traveling basically every day since then."
Taking a "low and slow" approach to the trip, the family has already visited some 20 countries, including the United States, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras, and has flown more than 25,000 miles. nautical.
Around the World
Chief Pilot Ian Porter with his wife Michelle, daughters Samantha and Sydney acting as co-pilots, and son Christopher.
Credit: Samantha Porter
According to Ian, going around the world in a single-engine plane is a dream "that is probably somewhere on every pilot's mind", but he began to consider the possibility more seriously a few years ago, after doing some long trips. away to raise funds.
A couple of years ago, the real estate developer, who had always wanted to spend more time traveling with his family, saw a "window of opportunity" when Samantha was planning to take a gap year from college and Sydney was graduating from high school.
For his part, Christopher had just gone through a "drill" of distance schooling during the pandemic, so he knew it was a viable option, while his wife Michelle had been doing housework full-time for several years.
Convinced that it was more or less now or never, Ian hastened to convince the rest of the family to take the plunge.
Once everyone was on board with the idea, he was left with the difficult task of finding a suitable single-engine aircraft for the expedition.
Ian explains that he wanted to fly by visual flight rules, a set of rules under which a pilot operates an aircraft in weather conditions that are clear enough to see where he's going and doesn't need to submit and seek approval of flight plans.
This influenced the choice of aircraft, as most of the aircraft used to circumnavigate the world are larger and require pre-planned routes approved by air traffic controllers.
"Finding a plane with a capacity for five people, survival equipment and a reasonable amount of luggage was not the easiest," he admits.
He eventually stumbled upon a Gippsaero GA8 AirVan, a modern Australian-made aircraft, for sale a short drive from his Vancouver home.
"I think it was a sign," he says.
"Here's the plane... either you get to it or you shut up."
the perfect plane
The Porters have already flown more than 25,000 nautical miles and visited twenty countries.
Credit: Samantha Porter
The Porters later bought the plane, which they have nicknamed the Moose, for $500,000 and "the rest is history."
Ian describes his 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 "sports utility 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 is chief pilot, Samantha and Sydney are his co-pilots, his wife Michelle takes care of health papers and visas, as well as "everyday necessities", and Christopher takes care of his camera crew, when he's not studying. from distance.
“My friends think we're a little crazy for what we do, but it's definitely worth it,” says Samantha, who earned the driver's title in 2021, concurrently with her sister and co-driver Sydney.
"Obviously there are the little family feuds. But I feel like that happens even when you're at home and nothing really that intense is going on."
They say that they are currently flying an average of an hour a day and claim that they have already landed at more than 160 different airports.
"We haven't overplanned anything, 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 fixed agenda or fixed places to go. We just follow a very general route."
During the trip, the Porters hope to raise $1 million for SOS Children's Villages, an international charity dedicated to helping children in more than 130 countries without parental care and families at risk.
"In addition to being a great family adventure, we wanted it to do something," explains Ian.
The woman who travels the world with a small suitcase
five in heaven
The fact that they were able to put in a full 14 months to complete the journey has been a huge help, giving them time to enjoy the sights along the way without feeling the need to rush.
The family has spent the night in various campsites, hostels and hotels, and has sometimes been hosted by some of those who have followed their journey.
They even spent Christmas in the Galapagos Islands.
"We're not competing," says Ian.
"We don't have to leave one place and get to another on a given day. Because that's when you make bad decisions."
Although Samantha and Sydney's flying experience was relatively limited before the start of the trip, they now say they've picked up a lot of new skills along the way.
"The actual flying in the air is only part of it," adds Ian, who says his daughters have done "phenomenal."
"There is a lot of work behind it, like checking the weather, navigation and radio, especially when we fly to countries where we don't speak the native language."
Michelle admits that it can be frustrating to be one of the only non-pilots aboard "Moose", Christopher also wants to get his pilot's license in the future, but enjoys watching his children gain more and more confidence in their abilities.
"Being a part of and supporting our children's growing confidence as pilots and adventure enthusiasts has been incredible," he tells CNN Travel via email.
Flying to Cape Horn, known as the "southern tip" of South America, last year, Samantha says she began to really appreciate how incredible the journey has been, and will continue to be, for each of them.
"Going from the northernmost tip of North America to the southernmost part, what they call the 'end of the world,'" he says.
"I was like, 'Wow, this is not only great, but this is awesome. We've accomplished something incredible as a family. And it's just the beginning.'"
For Ian, flying over the fires in the Amazon jungle was a particularly poignant moment, albeit for very different reasons.
"We have seen the Amazon in flames firsthand," he says sadly.
"It was absolutely amazing. It was about four and a half hours of solid flying through the smoke, watching the fires burn in every direction."
"It's stuff you read about in the papers and think about intellectually. But actually seeing it is a different experience."
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The Porters admit that travel has had its difficult moments, and that the combination of being almost constantly on the go and having to deal with so many different factors, including airport logistics on the ground, as well as trying to stay healthy, has taken its toll at times. .
"In a way, it's been a real test of being comfortable with being uncomfortable," says Samantha.
"In the last seven months I have experienced more things than I have ever experienced in my life or ever expected to experience."
"Different climates, different cultures and different places. It has been a great challenge."
One of the biggest challenges they have faced has been the bureaucratic process involved in flying a small plane to so many different countries, such as permits to fly 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 go through all the formalities on the ground after landing at a particular destination.
A family's world trip before their children lose their vision
However, he is very impressed by the way the "crew" has coped with it all, noting that viewers have commented on how well they all work together, both on board and on the ground.
"Many people think that going around the world in a private single-engine plane is a luxury trip, with five-star accommodation and suitcases," he adds.
"That can be done. But we do it all ourselves. We all pitch in. We get to work."
Michelle points out that the aviation community has been tremendously supportive and helpful throughout their journey.
"We've met some amazing people," he adds.
The Porters, photographed in the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, left Vancouver on June 15, 2022 and "basically have been traveling every day since then."
Credit: Samantha Porter
Currently in Belize, the Porters say they will likely head to Guatemala, before flying to Mexico.
Next, they plan to fly to eastern Canada, before crossing the North Atlantic via Greenland, Iceland and Europe.
From here, they will likely fly via Egypt, the Middle East, India and Japan, though they say the exact route will "always evolve."
Some stretches ahead remain uncertain as Russian airspace has been closed to several countries, including the United States and Canada, since early 2022 as a result of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The Porters, who say their modus operandi is "low and slow," have flown more than 25,000 nautical miles in the past seven months.
Credit: Samantha Porter
"The logical route for us is to go to eastern Russia and then cross into Alaska," explains Ian.
"But right now, Russian airspace is closed to us. So it's a question mark, for which we don't have a solution right now."
They estimate that they will return to Canada towards the end of August.
For now, the family, who have been documenting their journey through their 5 in the Sky website, are taking things day by day and trying to savor every moment of their incredible journey.
Although Ian admits it's been tougher than he initially expected, he's delighted with the way they've bonded and grateful to share the experience with his wife and children.
"Those bureaucratic three to four hour waits can become excruciating after a while if you're doing it alone," he says.
"But at least if you're with your family, you can play cards or whatever."
Samantha is also well aware of how lucky they are to have the opportunity to see the world together in such a unique way, and says that both she and her siblings have learned a lot from the experience.
"Obviously we face our challenges," says Samantha.
"But honestly, I will look back on these experiences and I will miss spending all these days with my family."
"To be able to explore places that I would never have expected to explore and to have a plane to go to such remote places."