Frequent flyer Bob Vance, 81, of Cordova Bay, is readying to fly more than a week on the first leg of a 60-day trip around South America. Submitted

Octogenerian to start New Year on flight adventure in Central America

Cordova Bay’s Bob Vance helped raise $425,000 for Hope Air

Retiree Bob Vance is leaving Cordova Bay to start 2018 on an epic adventure in the sky.

Come January the 81-year-old frequent flyer is heading off on the first leg of a 60-day tour around South America, and he’s doing it as a passenger in a two-seater airplane that would fit in most garages.

“The planes are very small which makes it an interesting flight,” Vance said. “There’s no washroom, there’s barely room for your suitcase, and the flights are only about two to four hours, usually once a day, sometimes two in a day.”

Vance’s longtime friend Dave McElroy will pilot the plane for all 60 days in an Oregon-built Van’s RV series aircraft. It’s nothing new for McElroy, who is finishing a book about another adventure he took, when he flew a small Piper Comanche around the world in 80 days in 2014.

McElroy will be joined in the sky by another pair plane, that one flown by Russ Airey of Ontario. They’ll cover 32,000 kilometres landing at about 50 airports in 20 different countries.

What’s unique about the trip is how Vance, McElroy and a couple more pals have spun this retiree adventure into a $425,000 fundraiser they call Give Hope Wings. Their initiative donates the money to Hope Air, the charity which arranges flights for low-income Canadians in rural northern areas, and flies them into urban areas to get the type of medical attention they need.

Initially, Vance had committed to flying the entire journey with McElroy but Vance suffered a health setback. Instead, the group broke McElroy’s trip into eight legs of about one week each (some a bit longer), with Vance flying on the first leg.

“We figured we could do this and raise money,” Vance said. “For the recommended donation [of $30,000] you can fly one of the legs.”

Sooke resident Reg Willick is among the other passengers who will join McElroy via a commercial airline at a rendezvous point.

For Vance the adventure starts in San Diego where he’ll rendezvous with McElroy and with Airey. They’ll spend between seven to 10 days flying to Panama. The planes will circumnavigate Central and South America and the Caribbean Sea. They’ll make North American landfall in Florida on the way back.

reporter@saanichnews.com

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