It’s no secret that spring is a popular time for many Whistlerites to get out of the so-called “bubble” and explore a different area of the world.
But instead of booking plane tickets and hostels, one pair of Whistler residents is busy preparing for a very different type of trip.
Next month, helicopter pilot and serial entrepreneur Ruben Dias, along with Mischa Gelb, a Lower Mainland-based heli pilot and instructor, and Dias’ 18-year son Diogo, a photographer and videographer, will depart Whistler and embark on a helicopter trip around the world.
The trio plans to travel approximately 49,000 kilometres and make 107 stops in 45 countries before touching back down in Whistler 84 days later. They’re dubbing their project the “EPIC World Tour”: an acronym for Empowering People Inspiring Change.
To that end, Dias and Gelb will host a series of free, open-for-all conferences during many of those stops. They’ll be speaking in local venues like universities in an effort to motivate youth to embrace entrepreneurship and healthy living.
“We believe that to be successful in business and have a balanced life, you’ve got to have a healthy lifestyle,” Dias said, adding that both he and his co-pilot follow vegan diets and exercise daily.
The crew has no shortage of success stories to share, either: Dias started his first tech company in Portugal at the age of 21. Since then he’s bought and sold several start-ups and invested in many more, before becoming a full-time Whistler resident five years ago. His co-pilot Gelb also brings a strong entrepreneurial background to the table: he bought his first helicopter at the age of 18 and purchased BC Helicopters, a flight training and charter business in Abbottsford, when he was only 23.
“I’ve had this idea in my head for decades. For 30 years at least-probably before I became a pilot,” Dias said. He brought up the dream during a training session with Gelb one day, only to discover his instructor was itching to do the same.
In addition to their shared passion for aviation and helicopters, Dias and Gelb’s endeavour is motivated by “this idea that you can do things beyond your comfort zone… To achieve something that is meaningful, for our type of personalities, we’ve got to go a little bit beyond our comfort zones, so we’re putting ourselves in that situation, with not only the flight itself, but the whole project and the planning; it’s very complex,” Dias said.
The pilots have already had to face several challenges throughout the approximately two years they’ve spent planning their trip, from carefully designing each leg in coordination with the helicopter’s limited range to obtaining authorization to fly through countries’ air space. During the journey, they’ll also have to cater their flight plan to Visual Flight Rules (navigating solely by outside visual cues, as opposed to the Instrument Flight Rules followed by most commercial airplanes). That means they’ll require clear visibility to fly, and have to navigate around weather.
The crew will also be documenting their venture through social media and daily vlogs, while their followers can keep tabs on the aircraft through live tracking. In addition to helping with navigation and communication while in flight, Diogo’s photography and videography skills will be vital in sharing their journey.
“This makes it more interesting. You’re not alone; you feel that you’re going with this crowd of followers… that’s what makes it more motivating,” Dias said.
The three-man crew also hopes to set a new world record for the fastest equatorial antipode circumnavigation on a helicopter. That means the flight plan must include a pair of points on exact opposite sides of the world, located such that if they were to be connected by a straight line, that line would pass through the Earth’s centre. The antipodes they plan to touch during their journey are located in Columbia and Indonesia.
The trip is being sponsored by Fast Track VC, a co-investment platform for tech startups, and Eight, a health lounge in Portugal — which were both founded by Dias — while General Aviation Support Egypt will aid with flight planning, support and landing and overflying authorizations.
They’ll be flying in a five-seat Robinson R66 helicopter, scheduled to depart from Blackcomb Aviation’s heliport on Tuesday, May 1 (though the departure date could change due to extenuating circumstances).