One hundred and three airports. Fourteen countries. Thirty-eight thousand kilometres.
In the span of just over a month.
Father-and-son-team Bob and Steve Dengler, BA’93, are planning to make those stops and cover that distance this summer – in a Bell 429 Global Ranger helicopter.
The seasoned aviators take off from Ottawa July 1 for what, they believe, to be the first-ever father/son aircraft circumnavigation, and the first-ever Canadian helicopter circumnavigation, of the globe.
“Basically, it was an idea my father had that, when I got involved, went from being a ‘what if’ to a ‘let’s do it.’ We’ve probably spent more quality time together in the last year, planning the trip, than we did in the previous 10. It’s been an amazing time to reconnect, re-establish the relationship that, because we’ve both been busy, we haven’t had the time to put a lot into,” said Steve.
He recently semi-retired from his successful online foreign exchange business, XE, affording him more free time to focus on this father/son adventure.
Throughout the journey, which will take Dengler and his father, and third pilot Rob MacDuff, through the Canadian Arctic and remote locations in Greenland, Iceland and Russia, they intend to photograph and live stream what they see, thanks to a helicopter equipped with broadband Internet. They will also bring VIP guests on board for different legs of the journey, including hockey legend Guy Lafleur, astronaut Dave Williams and internationally renowned photojournalist Peter Bregg.
“We picked stops along the way that really have significant cultural, historical and technological value. So, the two ends of the transatlantic radio signal and the Bell Helicopter plant in Montreal, which is an amazing marvel of technology,” Steve said. “We’re also going to overfly the Viking heritage site, L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, and land in Vimy, France, in honour of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The battle was certainly a defining moment in our national history and has particular resonance for me.”
The crew intends to visit numerous locations across Canada in celebration of Canada 150 as well and, for the Denglers, the opportunity to share the adventure with Canadians across the country makes the trip more than worthwhile.
“This is not just something my father and I are doing – it’s something we are sharing with the world. I want people to feel like they can really come along for the trip in the cockpit. I also want people who have only heard of some of these places to feel like they really were there,” said Steve. “If all we accomplish is sharing Canada’s hidden treasures to any number of Canadians, wherever they are, then we’ve done our job. And, to represent Canada, is such a privilege.”
The Denglers registered C150 Global Odyssey as a Canadian not-for-profit and are currently raising funds for True Patriot Love Foundation and Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation. The former provides community-based programming and support for Canadian veterans and military families. The latter was chosen because of the quality health care the organization provides, although the selection has taken on a rather personal meaning since Bob recently received life-saving cancer treatment from Southlake.
While trip planning slowed to address this unforeseen health challenge, Bob is now cancer-free and ready to fly.
“There was a bit of a question mark hanging over the trip for a few months but we continued to prepare – you can’t push the pause button because there’s a million things to do. There’s no question we’d be further ahead had that not happened. But, Southlake saved my father’s life and allowed this trip to continue,” said Steve.
In addition to Bob’s health, the team has faced a few other challenges throughout the course of planning their adventure, including the untimely death of the original third pilot and navigating the standards and procedures of flying within Russia. “We’ve literally been negotiating with the Russian Ambassador in Ottawa. We’ve also found a Russian-speaking navigator to join us for that portion of the trip because, unlike other International Civil Aviation Organization countries that speak English, in Russia, the language they speak on the radio is Russian.”
For Steve, while the opportunity to build memories with his father is first and foremost, the trip offers many other exhilarating dimensions.
“It’s the 150th anniversary of Canada, we’re going to raise some money for charity, we’re going to have an adventure, we’re going to promote Canadian history, culture and innovation as we fly around the world and we’re going to be goodwill ambassadors,” said Steve. “Canada is an amazing place and it’s huge. We’re going to be flying over a lot of it. Not every part, but we’re going to every province, every territory and every provincial and territorial capital.
“The Canadian Arctic is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and, in general, the more remote parts of Canada are just as much a part of the national fabric as the big cities – but people just don’t get a chance to see very much. I’m so excited to bring that to Canadians.”
To see all the planned C150 Global Odyssey stops, follow social media accounts or make a donation to the registered charities, visit c150go.ca. In addition to raising charitable donations, the Denglers are also currently seeking corporate sponsorship to support various legs of the trip.