16 April 2004
MANILA – A 45-year-old German pilot began on Friday a historic quest to fly his grandfather’s relic seaplane around the world in a bid to keep his family legacy alive and to promote tourism in the Philippines.
Iren Dornier took off from Clark International Airport in the northern province of Pampanga for Bangkok, Thailand aboard a refurbished Do-24 amphibian plane which he retrieved from a museum in Germany in December 2002.
“I feel good,” Dornier told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa, shortly before take-off, which was briefly delayed due to clearance problems. “I am confident we can achieve our goal to fly this plane around the world safely.”
The Do-24 was designed and built in 1939 by Dornier’s grandfather, Claude – a German aviation legend. It became known as the flying boat after it was used to rescue more than 11,000 people in the ocean amid high waves and strong winds during World War II.
The aircraft was repaired and refitted with new engines, as well as equipped with a state-of-the art sattelite communications system. Its wings and landing gear were also expanded.
“This is one of the finest seaplanes ever built,” said Dornier, who was being accompanied by four crew members on the 60-country flight. “There’s nothing comparable to this particular aircraft.”
Dornier said he expects to arrive in Bangkok – the first of 87 stops scheduled during his eight-and-a-half-month journey – around 10:30 p.m. (1430 GMT) “depending on the wind condition”.
Other destinations include India, Pakistan, Japan, Turkey, Greece, Germany, France, Italy, Finland, Iceland, Russia, the United States, Canada, Cuba, Jamaica, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Angola, Kenya, Bahrain, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
Well-wishers, including Philippine officials, gathered in Manila on the eve of Dornier’s journey to boost his morale.
Tourism Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan expressed hopes that Dornier’s adventure would revitalize interest in the country’s aviation industry and boost tourism.
“We’re so thankful, so happy and so honoured to be part of this historic occassion,” he said. “We’re looking forward to welcoming Captain Dornier back to the Philippines after his journey around the world.”
After the world tour, the Do-24 is to become part of a fleet of Dornier’s Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) used to ferry VIP clients around resorts and other top tourist destinations in the Philippines.
Dornier, who has been based in the Philippines since the early 1990s and has other business interests in the country aside from SEAIR, was expected to complete the flight around the world and return to Manila on 25 December.
Subject: German news