Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Fly Your Own Plane to Fogo Island, Newfoundland

Wendy Perrin | April 10, 2014

If piloting your own small plane to the edge of the earth sounds like your kind of fun, or like a great gift for a significant other, I’ve got an idea for you—and you don’t even need to be certified to fly. It’s the birthday present I gave my husband last year. You can even combine it with a trip to the Fogo Island Inn, the buzzy new hotel off the remote northeast coast of Newfoundland (next stop: Greenland) that is on many people’s travel to-do lists right now.

Getting to Fogo Island can feel like a journey to the edge of the world. In fact, according to the Flat Earth Society, Fogo is one of the four corners of the world. From Gander, Newfoundland, the journey requires a two-hour drive, a 45-minute ferry ride, another 20-minute drive, and a mess of logistics.

Last summer I needed an easier way. I was bound for Fogo and crunched for time. I also needed a birthday present for Tim. So I killed two birds with one stone: Tim got to pilot a four-seat Cessna 172 Skyhawk from Gander to Fogo and back—even though he’s not certified to fly—and I got a transit time of just 30 minutes each way.

Gander is, of course, an internationally renowned center for aviation training. At 8:00 a.m. we reported to Gander Flight Training HQ and met our trainer, a young pilot named Derek Sparkes. He weighed us and our luggage, had us help him with the aircraft safety check, and taught us about all the controls, gauges, and dials in the cockpit. He sat next to Tim throughout the flight, leading him through each step, his hands almost on the controls so he could take over in a nanosecond if necessary; in fact, sometimes Tim could feel the yoke and pedals move to where Derek wanted them to be. But Tim taxied down the runway, communicated with air traffic control, and took off all by himself. As we sailed over vast expanses of blue and green, Tim even managed to shoot some photos too. But when it came time to land on Fogo, the landing strip looked awfully narrow. Tim decided he’d better leave the touchdown to an expert and gladly handed over control.

Such private flights out of Gander are both weather- and weight-dependent. Thankfully, the wind cooperated and our luggage was light. Such flights aren’t cheap either. I paid $1,200 to the travel planner who recommended and arranged it for me, Marc Telio of Entrée Canada. It was a splurge, for sure, but the roundtrip flight saved us at least six hours of travel time and left us with a priceless memory. And because I also booked my Fogo Island Inn stay through Marc—who gets a greatly reduced rate, thanks to his friendship with the Inn’s founder—I saved almost as much as I spent.

Pilot Derek Sparkes performs a safety check

Pilot Derek Sparkes performs a safety check on the plane.

Tim takes the pilot's seat.

Tim takes the pilot’s seat.

Inside the Cessna

Inside the Cessna

The runway

The runway

The view from inside the plane

The view as we took off

aerial view of Newfoundland

View from the plane

Fogo Island 5aerial view of Fogo Island Newfoundlandaerial view of Fogo Island Newfoundland

Fogo Island 11
I’d love to hear: What’s the best travel gift you’ve given anyone?

 

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1 Comment

  1. Brian Dore

    Great story Wendy and kudos to Tim for taking control! I’m also a big fan of flying and am lucky enough to have a friend in Umbria who is a pilot. He took me up one day in his single engine plane designed for acrobatics. Pictures can be found here I was too chicken to do too much of the flying but not too afraid to consent to him doing a 360 degree roll before landing. Next on my airplane bucket list is a seaplane trip over Lake Como.

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