5 in the Sky: Canadian family to attempt around-the-world expedition in single-engine fixed-wing aircraft

By Natasha McKenty | April 8, 2022

Estimated reading time 12 minutes, 27 seconds.

A Vancouver-based family of five is planning a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that will take them to over 50 countries, covering 45,000 nautical miles.

As with the rest of us, they’ve spent the last two years restricted from travel, but rather than go their separate ways, the Porters are eager to spend another 14 months together in their family aircraft.

The “5 in the Sky” crew plan to circle the globe in a fully outfitted 2013 GippsAero GA8 Airvan airplane (C-GIPU). The single-engine GA8 Airvan – specifically designed for use in “remote areas and from austere airstrips” – was chosen due to its proven “ruggedness and ease of use.”

The aircraft boasts a turbocharged Lycoming IO 540 engine, can carry a pilot and up to seven passengers, and cruises at 220 km/h (120 knots) for up to five hours, reaching an altitude of up to 20,000 feet.

The “5 in the Sky” crew plan to circle the globe in a fully outfitted 2013 GippsAero GA8 Airvan airplane (C-GIPU). Ian Porter Photo

With a summer 2022 departure in mind, chief pilot Ian Porter (otherwise known as “Dad”) and his daughter/co-pilot, Samantha Porter, sat down with Skies to share the behind-the-scenes planning and preparation (and acceptance of the unknown) that goes into a journey of this magnitude.

“I will be the chief pilot with our two daughters [Sydney, 17, and Samantha, 21], each of whom are licensed private pilots, also helping out with the flying,” said Porter.

“We will fly VFR (visual flight rules) at all times and adjust our route as required for weather, fuel availability, and distance between airports. We will seek out the smaller, more remote and less-visited areas whenever possible,” he noted.

The plan

The Porter family plans to depart from B.C. in late June and “fly all the way across Canada to Newfoundland,” where they will pick up their younger daughter who is competing in a karate tournament. From there, the plan is to head “to the world-famous aviation exposition at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, before continuing south to Florida.”

5 in the Sky will then “head to the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and southwards through the Caribbean to northern South America.”

The family plans to depart from B.C. in late June. Ian Porter Photo

“In August and September, we’ll fly within Brazil and northern Argentina before heading south to the Patagonia region for November. Then, by the end of December 2022, we’ll be leaving Chile to head north through Peru and Ecuador to Colombia. Finally, in January and February 2023, we’ll be in Central America and Mexico and will return through the U.S. to fly to eastern Canada by early April,” he told Skies.

With over 700 flight hours under his belt, Porter’s aviation journey started in Ontario, at the age of 18, “on a small dirt strip,” he said.

“I got my private pilot license [and] by the flip of a coin decided not to pursue flying as a professional,” he said.

Samantha and Sydney started flight training on the same day in 2020; they also flew solo and achieved their pilot’s licenses on the same day. Both daughters, who plan to take an active role in flying, also hope to inspire other young women to become pilots.

Samantha (pictured right) and Sydney (left) started flight training on the same day in 2020; they also flew solo and achieved their pilot’s licenses on the same day. Ian Porter Photo

“There’s this programmed feeling for many girls that it’s just not doable or that it’s so difficult,” Samantha observed. “We tend to doubt our abilities because it’s a male-dominated industry.

“There should be no doubt in your mind that you can do it,” she said.

In the second stage of the expedition, the family will cross the North Atlantic through Greenland and Iceland. They anticipate this will happen in early May 2023.

“We then intend to spend two to three weeks flying across Europe before heading to Egypt, the Middle East, India, and Japan.”

The next part of the journey will hinge on current events, which will dictate the feasibility of safely flying through Eastern Russia, across the Bering Strait and into Alaska by late July 2023.

“We’ll then tour Alaska, the Yukon, and northern B.C. before heading south to Vancouver, before the end of August 2023,” said Porter.

A charitable affair

For the Porters, it’s important that their “ed-venture” (educational adventure) creates more than just a lasting familial memory. They decided to use the attention they will receive to raise awareness and funds for a charitable organization: SOS Children’s Villages.

The Porters decided to raise awareness and funds for a charitable organization: SOS Children’s Village. Ian Porter Photo

“We really wanted to do something with a charity that focused on families and children,” said Porter. “SOS Children’s Villages checked all the boxes. They operate globally, including the Ukraine and Russia. They’ve been around for 70 years and are an excellent charity.”

According to SOS, the non-profit “offers safe and nurturing family homes to over 80,000 orphaned and abandoned children in over 130 countries and territories worldwide.”

The Porter family aims to raise $1 million for SOS and is currently looking for sponsors to help them achieve this goal.

And although the chief pilot (and typical protective dad) recognizes the importance of sharing and engaging online, to raise the funds, he admitted social media is amongst the foreign landscape he’ll be exploring for the first time.

“[As a family], we’ve always been very social media shy,” he laughed.

Going from being “undercover” to sharing every part of their lives will be “interesting.”

When asked how extended family and friends reacted to their 50-country quest, the Porters told Skies that the news is usually met with a mixed reaction — with most looking forward to living vicariously through them.

Ready for anything

The family of aviators have traveled extensively together in the past, and are prepared for inevitable obstacles, sharing that “the exact route will evolve, even as the expedition is underway.”

The exact route will evolve, even as the expedition is underway. Ian Porter Image

By allocating more than a year, “with a very flexible itinerary . . . flying a modern, safe, and well-equipped aircraft with three licensed pilots on board,” the 5 in the Sky crew plan to “adhere to the mantra, ‘Use your superior judgement so you won’t have to use your superior piloting skills.'”

Porter added: “Realistically, with a 14-month expedition, things will go wrong. But we will make it, and we’ll just keep going. Flying, in many ways, is the easy part . . . it’s the logistics — flying in the middle of a pandemic., with a family of five, finding accommodations, [obtaining] permits and Visas, these are the obstacles.”

Anticipating the turbulence that they will inevitably encounter – both in the air and on the ground – Porter said: “We have found that delays or unexpected stops often yield some of the best and most unique experiences.”

The family plans to document the 14-month expedition, and share behind-the-scenes footage via Instagram and TikTok while also writing a blog.

“[We] invite everyone to follow along on [the] around-the-world flight.”

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2 Comments

  1. Please be sure to follow this story. It’s a big trip for five people in a small aircraft and I hope they are able to do it.

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