Taking to the skies to End Polio

Two pilots will fly a single engine Cessna aircraft around the world to raise awareness and funds for Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign, stopping in Darwin, Cairns and Brisbane this July.

By Anne Matthews

The Around the World Flight to End Polio is an initiative of Rotary Districts 5970 and 6000, which are located in Iowa, US. The purpose of the flight is to raise funds and awareness for polio eradication. Two pilots, John Ockenfels and Peter Teahen, will fly the 1977 Cessna T210M single engine aeroplane around the world, travelling more than 40,000 kilometres with 33 landings in 25 countries.

John and Peter have been friends for many years. They are cousins through marriage, pilots who share a passion for aviation, Rotarians, and members of the Fellowship of Flying Rotarians.

They took off from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, US, on May 5 and landed in Portsmouth New Hampshire, where they were met by PolioPlus Committee Chair Mike McGovern. Throughout the journey, Peter and John will support Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign and if the first stop is any indication, they will receive excellent media coverage.

There will be Rotarians and media representatives on hand to meet the pilots on the Darwin stopover, planned for June 30 – July 3. Susanne Rea, founder of the World’s Greatest Meal (WGM) to End Polio, District 9560 PolioPlus Chair Nauman Abbasi, and Public Image Director Rita Zappulla will meet the duo for the Cairns stopover from July 3-6.

The estimated date for the Brisbane landing is July 6. Bribie Island resident and polio survivor Wayne Slattery, a member of the D9560 Passport Rotary Club, will be at Brisbane Airport to meet the adventurers. Wayne’s wife Ravy, who is also a polio survivor, will attend the Brisbane welcome along with polio survivors from the Brisbane district. Public Image Coordinator Darryl Iseppi and D9560 Passport Rotary Club member Anne Matthews are working on the media coverage for the Brisbane stop over.

Various hosts around the world have a variety of ideas for the stopovers in their districts.

“Several are having events at the airport in order for folks to see the aeroplane,” Peter said. “Others are having food and music. We even have heard of a cycle parade.

“Many are inviting government and community leaders including mayors, governors, presidents of their respective countries and even a royal highness! Of course, John and I are available to meet with folks and do a presentation if that is desired.”

One hundred per cent of funds raised from the flight will be donated to The Rotary Foundation PolioPlus Program. And, thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, each dollar donated turns into three dollars, with their generous 2:1 match. John and Peter are covering the entire cost of the flight as well as taking time away from their careers and lives to help end polio.

And while they both have many hours of flight experience, this will be their first around the world trip. Surprisingly, only 700 pilots have ever flown around the world and fewer than 300 of those people are alive today. This trip puts the duo in unique and incredible company!