“A stupid idea”: father and son circle the globe by helicopter

A man taking a group photo of five people on the tarmac in front of a helicopter.
Peter Bregg, photographer, captures a group shot of Chief Warrant Officer Rob Brassington, Colonel Paul Doyle, Steven Dengler, Bob Dengler and Second Lieutenant Camille Dolphin. Photo: MCpl H.J.L. MacRae.

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By Jeff Gaye
4 Wing Cold Lake: The Courier

All kinds of military aircraft come and go from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta., but on August 9 a civilian helicopter on an impressive mission stopped for a visit.

The Canada 150 Global Odyssey is the first Canadian project to circumnavigate the globe by helicopter, and probably the first father-and-son team from anywhere to take on the project.

Bob Dengler and his son Steven left Ottawa July 1, and flew to Canada’s Arctic, across to Greenland, Iceland, the U.K. and continental Europe. After a scheduled maintenance layover in Prague, they pressed on across Russia.

They crossed over to Nome, Alaska, for their second scheduled maintenance, and are now flying across Canada to complete their round-the-world trip.

They are flying in Bob’s Bell 429 Global Ranger helicopter, which was designed and built in Canada.

Bob took up flying at the age of 66, after retiring from the mining company he had built. Now 77, he said the idea for a round-the-world trip came to him after he bought the new helicopter.

“But I kept my mouth shut,” he said. “It sounded like a stupid idea.”

When he broached the subject with Steven, though, the two started to formulate a plan. They enlisted some help from Royal Canadian Air Force’s Brigadier-General Sylvain Menard.

“He helped us a lot with the planning,” Bob said. “And then he said, ‘You know, after all the planning is done and you start your trip, you’re going to watch the whole plan go up in smoke.’ And sure enough…!”

Bob and Steven say the plan has actually held together, more or less, but the schedule took a beating due to weather delays and the occasional route change.

Of the places they have seen, both Bob and Steven say the most spectacular has been the Akshayuk Pass on Baffin Island. The 1524–metre cliff is the tallest uninterrupted cliff face in the world.

Steven said another experience that impressed him was the warmth of the people they met in Russia.

“Especially in eastern Russia, where not so many foreign visitors would go,” he said. “They would literally just drop everything, take me out to dinner, drive me to the attractions and the scenic spots. They were just so incredibly happy to have guests.”

Along the way, the Denglers have been raising money and awareness for Southlake Regional Health Centre, a cancer hospital in Newmarket, Ont.; and True Patriot Love Foundation, a charity that supports military families.

They have been travelling with a third pilot, Rob MacDuff, and photographer, Peter Bregg.

You can follow their journey at www.c150go.ca and on Facebook.

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