courtesy of EPIC
“We flew up a fjord and right into the rapidly
rising terrain — a glacier. We climbed quickly along the
glacier, disappearing back up into the clouds again,” recounts Rolf
Berg, a Menomonee Falls resident.
Rolf is not referring to an aviation stunt, but
rather his approach and eventual descent into Narsarsuaq, Greenland.
The private pilot spent last July circling the globe in his own
plane, a six-person Epic aircraft, as part of Epic’s inaugural
Odyssey World Tour, and Narsarsuaq was the tour’s fourth stop. Gale
Evans, who handles Epic’s sales and marketing divisions and was also
on the trip, says the teeny village has “one of the most potentially
dangerous runways in the world, under adverse weather conditions.”
“Luckily, our conditions were ideal,” Evans
continues. “If they hadn’t been, we would have diverted to another,
less remote airstrip. But the scenery was absolutely incredible — so
dramatic, truly one of the highlights of the trip for many of us.”
An avid aviation enthusiast, Rolf received his flying
certification in 2005, and purchased a Beechcraft Bonanza the
following year. Then, in the fall of 2008, he sold the Bonanza and
bought an Epic LT, a kit-built, single-engine turboprop aircraft.
Rolf trained with the Epic team in Oregon before flying his aircraft
for the first time nearly three years later, in June of 2011. “The
FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requires the owner to build
more than 50 percent of the airplane,” he explains. “You get to know
the airplane — all the internal controls and mechanisms — very
Rolf and his wife, Barb, have spent the last five
years flying their plane around the continental U.S., with
additional trips to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Houston, where
their daughter lives, is a frequent stop, adds Barb, who recently
began learning how to land the plane.
A complete circumnavigation of the globe, however,
was seemingly outside their comfort zone, but when the opportunity
to join Epic’s Odyssey World Tour presented itself earlier this
year, the Bergs reconsidered. “(They) were interested from the start
and never wavered,” adds Evans.
The tour itself included visits to nine countries and
21 cities in just 21 days. Five other couples were invited, bringing
the fleet’s grand total to six planes and 26 people. “There were a
number of other planes going, so we wouldn’t be going by ourselves,”
adds Barb, who joined Rolf for a portion of the trip. A second Epic
owner co-piloted their plane, and the company also contracted with
four internationally experienced professional pilots to assist,
advise and mentor the owners during the tour — both in the air and
on the ground, Evans says.
Another draw, say the Bergs, was the ability to see
places difficult to access by a commercial flight. “A lot of these
places aren’t served by any commercial airline,” notes Rolf.
Both Rolf and Barb cite Narsarsuaq as their favorite
stop. “We took a cruise after dinner through the icebergs,”
remembers Barb. “I’m always amazed at how blue they (look).” From
above, the experience is equally mesmerizing. “As you’re flying in,
you see this beautiful water with white specks in it, which are the
icebergs,” recalls Rolf. “The light has a prism effect on the
icebergs, glowing in this beautiful, bright blue. It was pretty
Another memorable experience, he says, was flying
above the Kamchatka Peninsula in Eastern Russia. The peninsula and
its surrounding region are home to 68 active volcanoes and part of
the “Ring of Fire,” a string of volcanoes that encircles the Pacific
Ocean. “Coming through the clouds and seeing circles of volcanoes
and the ocean, and then landing at a military base — it was
incredible,” says Rolf.
The trip of a lifetime, no doubt.
The 21-day tour
included stops in the following cities:
Oshkosh, Wis.; Montreal, Canada; Goose Bay, Canada;
Narsarsuaq, Greenland; Reykjavik, Iceland; Wick, Scotland;
Hampshire, England; Santa Margherita, Italy; Prague, Czech Republic;
St. Petersburg, Russia; Moscow, Russia; Ekaterinburg, Russia;
Novosibirsk, Russia; Irkutsk, Russia; Yakutsk, Russia; Magadan,
Russia; Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia; Nome, Ala.; Anchorage,
Ala.; Ketchikan, Ala.; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Oshkosh, Wis.