Around the world in 90 days... in a tiny plane
Aviators arrive at BNE but biggest challenge to come
A small Cessna aircraft touched down at Brisbane Airport today, as part of a circumnavigation of the world to help end the scourge of polio.
Rotarians Peter Teahen and John Ockenfels are flying a single engine Cessna T210M around the planet to raise money to end polio. They are funding the trip themselves so all money donated goes direct to The Rotary Foundation, and for every dollar donated, the Gates Foundation will contribute another $2.
They departed their home airport of Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the United States back on May 5 and have visited New Hampshire, Canada, Iceland, Scotland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Greece, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia before landing in Darwin.
That’s a lot of paperwork and regulatory hoops to jump through.
But they’re about to face their toughest test as they take on The Pacific Ocean, with flights of up to 15-hours as they hop between islands. Their aircraft has been modified to give it 19-hours range with extra fuel tanks installed on the wing tips, and a fuel bladder engineered on the Gold Coast in the back of the aircraft.
Ahead of them lies New Caledonia, Fiji, American Samoa, Hawaii, California, and Colorado before returning home to Cedar Rapids Iowa on July 30.
Upon landing back home Peter and John will join the roster of the 700 pilots who have flown around the world in a single-engine plane. Of those daring pilots since the birth of aviation, 270 are alive today.
“I was initially going to do this flight solo but then my wife said, ‘if you’re going to do this you need to find someone as crazy as you to take along with you’, and that’s when my cousin John came on board,” says Peter Teahen.
“We’ve been trying to do this flight for 4 years. We were ready to go in 2020, but 10 days before launch, Covid-19 broke out. In 2021, Covid-19 canceled us a second time, and last year we ready to depart and fly via Russia when the invasion of Ukraine occurred. So this flight has been a long time coming.”
Rotarians across the world have assisted with fundraisers in the cities the pair gave visited.
The most memorable moment of the trip so far was a visit to a slum in Pakistan where the crew was able to help vaccinate vulnerable children against polio.
“To have parents holding their child and you're able to give them the vaccine, and you've given that child a chance to be polio free for the rest of their life, it brought me to tears. And telling every child we look at in the future ‘you don’t ever have to worry about polio' because we're dealing with it now."
The team will depart Brisbane on Saturday 14 July at 8am.
By the numbers:
165+ hours in the sky
40,753 kilometre journey
$1,000,000 plus raised so far to polio prevention
After landing at Brisbane Airport, the pilots visited the Kingsford Smith Memorial to see the “Southern Cross” which the first aircraft to cross the Pacific, from the United States to Australia, 95 years ago. It is on permanent display at Brisbane Airport.
“To see what Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew achieved by navigating by the stars is truly remarkable. We have GPS today which pinpoints our location anywhere on earth. If our flight was relying on the stars to get us home, we’d be in a lot of trouble.”
At BNE, airport staff and partners rallied to support the charity flight including free accommodation from Brisbane Airport Hotels Group, ground help from Swissport and assistance from Australian Border Force.
To donate and for more information: flighttoendpolio.com