The Porter family of Vancouver, Canada — Dad Ian, Mom Michelle, 23-year-old Samantha, 18-year-old Sydney, and 15-year-old Christopher — have embarked on an adventure.
In June 2022, the family piled into a single engine airplane named “Moose” and headed out to see the world.
Not your typical general aviation global circumnavigation, the Porter Family’s “expedition” as oldest daughter Samantha calls it, takes the scenic route.
While most general aviation circumnavigators seek to get around the globe as fast as possible, the Porter family, who call themselves 5 in the Sky, have set aside 14 months for their trip.
They started off by first flying north from their Vancouver home base, then across the far northern reaches of their country, before turning south again at Newfoundland to take in EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2022 in Wisconsin. Then they were off for Florida.
They’ll spend the rest of this year working their way south and circumnavigating South America, before turning north again, cutting across the middle of the United States, and arriving back in Canada next summer to cross the North Atlantic during the “warm” season. Then they’ll work their way across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and finally fly home again across the Bering Sea and Alaska.
But that’s just the rough draft. The exact route is an organic, flexible thing controlled to some degree by weather, as they are flying VFR, and fuel prices, along with the costs of lodging.
More importantly, however, they are open to discovering detours of interest. For the 5 in the Sky, it’s all about the journey, not about the destination.
Plans for the epic flight started before the youngest of the siblings was born, even though parents Ian and Michelle didn’t know that was what they were planning at the time.
It simply started with a decision about their children’s education. The parents decided that rather than send their children to private schools, they would send them to public school and bank the money saved toward some sort of future family educational adventure.
“We generally have lived below our capability, driving older cars, etc., and have always told the kids that the money saved from not throwing cash at the latest and greatest gadget would be used at some point for their education or similar support,” Ian says.
In fact, they originally called the trip the “Family Edventure.” Ian says that the idea for making the Edventure an aerial global circumnavigation was originally his, inspired by serving as a copilot on a charity fundraising flight around Chile and Argentina, and as a pilot on another charity flight in Canada and Alaska.
“During the flights I felt I wanted to be able to spend more time at the places we stopped and also share the experience with the family,” he says.
He adds his wife Michelle was “not surprised” when he pitched the idea, “as I am always cooking up a new plan.”
The parents then “chatted with the kids, and after answering questions and discussing, they were all on-side.”
That’s Canadian for on board.
This year the ages and educational levels of the children aligned in the heavens, as it were, and it was time to launch Edventure.
Middle child Sydney had just finished high school, and will hold off starting college for a year.
Youngest child Christoper is still in high school, but thanks to COVID, has the option of staying in school via Zoom en route. He says that he’s pretty sure he’ll learn more about the world flying around it in 14 months than he’d learn about it in a classroom for the same amount of time.
Oldest daughter Samantha is missing out on summer internship opportunities, and has put her final year at the University of British Columbia on a brief hold, but concedes that it’s a small price to pay for the trip.
SOS in a good way
Recognizing that they were doing something that would generate attention — they may well be the first entire family to fly around the world together in a single-engine airplane — the family saw that they had an opportunity to benefit more than just themselves, and decided to connect with a charity to raise money and awareness.
The family selected SOS Children’s Villages, an Austria-based non-profit focused on providing humanitarian and developmental assistance to children in need worldwide.
Although the non-profit has been around since right after World War II, it’s “not a well known charity” in Canada and the U.S., says Ian, who adds he hopes their “grand family adventure” can boost awareness of the charity as well as raise money to support its operations.
Unlike many aviation stunt fundraisers, where the bulk of donations fund the flight and a small percentage goes to the charity, 5 in the Sky is giving 100% of what they raise to SOS. (Not that they would turn down any corporate sponsor who wants to help them with gas and oil for the flight.) They hope to raise a cool $1 million for SOS in the process. So far, they’ve raked in about $20,000, and the trip is just underway.
According to Ian, they’ve seen some amazing sights already.
“We have flown in the middle of the night under the brilliant arctic midnight sun, seen polar bears, Beluga whales, and flown over the icebergs in Iceberg Alley in Newfoundland,” he reports.
And the kids are already making small discoveries about how people in different countries live. Sydney was dismayed to find her favorite snack, Ketchup Chips, are unheard of in the U.S., and that Skittles aren’t filled with chocolate here.
Flying duties are shared by Ian, Samantha, and Sydney, all of whom have private pilot certificates, although insurance requirements only allow the daughters to fly right seat as pilots in command, and only while their father sits left seat.
The seating arrangement in Moose — a 2013 Australian-made Gippsaero GA8 AirVan — is 2+2 with the fifth seat in the tail cone of the cabin. This “tail gunner” slot is home to Christoper, who says he doesn’t mind sitting in the back, as it gives him the most leg room.
Meanwhile, even though the AirVan is Australia’s answer to the Caravan, there’s still a limit to what you can carry when you’ve got five people on board. As such, each member of the family is limited to 20 pounds of personal gear, including clothing, shoes, toiletries, personal items, and the bag itself. The kids say they sometimes trade poundage between each other to make it all work.
In a cargo pod on the belly of Moose, the family has some shared gear, including photography equipment, a drone, minimal camping gear, computers, tools, and a survival kit and raft.
Also stuffed in the pod are two spare aircraft: Ultralight paragliders. Ian is an avid paraglider and a certificated paragliding instructor. In the Yukon, under the midnight sun, he says he flew one of the paragliders “launching one day and landing the next!”
The AirVan had a full annual inspection just before the 5 in the Sky launched, but with a 14-month trip, will need another before rounding the globe. Current plans are to get one in the U.S. or Canada next spring as they return to this part of the continent prior to crossing the Atlantic.
Moose has already had two oil changes, one in Quebec prior to reaching AirVenture, and a second in Florida the week after AirVenture. The 5 carry spare oil filters and next plan to change oil in Argentina or Chile.
Feeding the family
The family members were all in agreement that food and lodging is the “greatest logistical challenge” of their expedition. They’ve spent nights sleeping in terminals, and others in hotel rooms with someone drawing the short straw and sleeping on the floor. They don’t have the carrying capacity for full cooking gear, so on one day the family ate trail mix and drank water. For all three meals.
Ian adds that, outside of the U.S., it’s hard to get from an airport to the nearest town. He calls U.S. airports “beautifully equipped,” and is particularly delighted with our tradition of crew cars at many airports.
“We have also been hosted a couple of times and enjoyed staying with people in their homes, with laundry facilities and home-cooked meals, although that makes it much harder to move on,” he says.
If you want to donate to the SOS cause there’s a link at the family’s website at 5intheSky.com. If you want to know where the 5 in the Sky are right now, click on the “tracker” link for a real-time update of where they are in the world.