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