Epic adventure will take gyroplane pilot to the ends of the earth – in the spirit of John Rae

Geoff Porter is planning an epic adventure to raise funds for the Hall of Clestrain in Orkney.
Geoff Porter is planning an epic adventure to raise funds for the Hall of Clestrain in Orkney.

A former army helicopter pilot is planning a world-record-breaking adventure to raise funds for the restoration of the home of Orkney explorer John Rae.

Geoff Porter will attempt a solo flight next month by flying across the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, from the UK to the Falkland Islands via Alaska and Cape Horn.

And he is bidding to make history on the two-month odyssey, covering nearly 20,000 miles in a little gyroplane, which he admits will test him to the limit.

He will face the full force of the weather, as he crosses everything from deserts to ice fields, as his Magni Gyro M16C plane is open to the elements.

Mr Porter will collect his craft in Milan this week and drive it from Italy by trailer to the UK, as the prelude to preparing the plane for its CAA airworthiness inspection and carrying out a series of flight tests.

Thereafter, he will head off into the blue yonder, determined to live by the example of the Scottish explorer, Rae, who was the first man to traverse the North West Passage in Canada in the 1850s.

Mr Porter said: “John Rae was fascinated by exploration.

“He revelled in finding the best travel solution which then gave him the means and capacity to tend to the job in hand and get results.

“Whatever he wanted to do, he found a way – a way that was often alien to most Europeans and yet so obvious.

“The answer is that if you want to stay alive out there, just follow the locals and do as they do.

“This put him streets ahead of other British Explorers and gave him access to the great Northern Territories of Canada and beyond.

“I know that I am facing up to a very big challenge in the months ahead. But if I can think like John Rae I’ll make it.”

After 36 years of flying with the likes of the Falkland Island Government Air Service, the British Antarctic Survey and British International Helicopters,  Mr Porter has a wealth of experience in responding to every conceivable situation.

But he accepts he has never tried anything quite on this scale before.

He said: “Now I am retired from professional flying, I have the time and skills to attempt the first Gyroplane crossing of the route.

“I’m under no illusions it will be quite difficult. I have chosen an open cockpit gyro and this significantly increases the harshness of the solo journey.

“It will require meticulous cockpit management, because any loose article may be sucked through the composite rear propellor and bring the machine down.

“The difficulty may be gauged by the fact it has never yet been attempted by Gyro.

“That goes for the Atlantic crossing westbound, the Arctic North America east to west route, the Americas north to south, and, just for good luck, the trip from Cape Horn across the south Atlantic Ocean to the Falklands.

“My Gyroplane trip will take more than two months and cover over 30,000km. I’ll get to see many wonders of our world and record much of it by video and camera.

“Regular Facebook reports will keep followers engaged with my trip as we cross oceans, tundras, deserts, mountain ranges, ice fields, and even the equator.

“It’s going into the unknown. But I’m really looking forward to it.”

Mr Porter, from County Tyrone in Ireland, first came to the Falklands in 1984 as an army helicopter pilot shortly after the 1982 conflict with Argentina.

Andrew Appleby, the president of the John Rae Society, which is orchestrating the renovation of the explorer’s birthplace, fully backs the initiative.

He said: “We thoroughly commend Geoff’s derring-do and wish him all success.

“With him planning to land at The Hall of Clestrain in Orkney, John Rae’s home, it is a great honour for us.

“More power to Geoff’s joystick.”