conley6.gif (2529 bytes)

 

Taking flight
Around the world in 21 days

By JEN KENT

December 2016

 

Photography 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 well.”

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 magical.”

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.





 

This story ran in the December 2016 issue of: