Amazing around the world adventure for couple who built their own plane
PUBLISHED: 10:55 25 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:51 26 January 2018
supplied by Sylvia Foster
A globetrotting couple with a spirit of adventure took the idea of a trip around the world to the next level when they built their own plane to travel in.
Sylvia Foster, 60, who is originally from Norfolk, and her husband Brian, a 67-year-old retired pharmacist, spent about two years building their plane before setting off on their epic trip.
Starting from their home of Port Alfred in South Africa, their 32,428 mile journey lasted about 160 days and saw them travel to places including Tanzania, Iceland, the United States, New Zealand and the Seychelles - and they also stopped off in Norwich along the way.
“I cannot believe we did it really. We both wake up in the morning and say, ‘we flew around the world? Did we really do that?’ It’s incredible,” Mrs Foster said.
The couple, who married in 2015, started preparing for their global adventure in 2014.
“It was Brian’s idea,” said Mrs Foster, who moved to South Africa in 2010 after living in Norfolk all her life.
“It started off we were going to buy an aeroplane in America and fly it back to South Africa, and then we thought, ‘if we are going to fly back to South Africa we might as well do a world trip,’ and it snowballed from there. We couldn’t find the plane we wanted so we ended up building one.”
They made their RV-10 plane - a four-seater, single engine aircraft - from a kit from American company Van’s Aircraft and started work on the plane in October 2014.
“It was full-time work for Brian. He worked seven days a week from 8am until 6pm. I went in most days but not for as long. Brian was the one that was dedicated to building the plane. We finished the plane in October 2016 then it took a few months to get the paperwork done,” said Mrs Foster, who added that while the plane was being built they were also planning their journey.
“We had lots of plans. There was plan A, B, C...depending on when the plane was finished because of the prevailing winds [affecting the routes].”
Their first flight was on May 31 from Port Alfred to Pilanesberg, in South Africa, and the flights that followed ranged from a flight of less than half an hour from Kilimanjaro to Arusha, in Tanzania, to a flight of more than 14 hours from Merced, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii.
“[During the trip] we went to 23 countries and 43 airports and did 52 flights over 160 days. It was 32,428 miles,” said Mrs Foster.
She said Iceland and Greenland were among her favourite parts of the trip.
“Flying into Nuuk in Greenland was wonderful because we flew over the fjord and past glaciers - that was just beautiful,” she said.
“It was stunning and unspoilt and we caught the weather right. Brian has this enduring memory of walking back from the pub at midnight and it was still daylight. It was pretty special.”
Another unforgettable moment was at Auckland airport in New Zealand.
“There was a big plane waiting and the guy at air traffic control said, ‘can you just let the little guy go first.’ This airbus had to wait for us!”
Other highlights included visiting Santa Monica, the Grand Canyon, and Washington DC, in America, and also paying a trip Mrs Foster’s home city of Norwich.
On July 2 they landed in Norwich, and they stopped in Norfolk until July 12 to visit friends and family - including Mrs Foster’s sons George and Andrew Avery and grandchildren Oliver, Ruby and Joshua - as well as play a round of golf at Dunston Hall.
“We flew into Norwich International Airport because we flew in from the island of Elba. Then from Norwich to Seething to do a service on the aeroplane there,” said Mrs Foster, who was born in Drayton, was a pupil at Notre Dame in Norwich and Wymondham College, and used to run Merryhill Ltd, also known as Merryhill Leisure, in Honingham.
“From Seething we went to Wick in Scotland and sat and waited for the weather to change to go to Reykjavik.”
Their round the world trip was also not without drama.
“We got held up in Kiribati because we fell foul of bureaucracy,” said Mrs Foster, explaining how they were held up for six days and had to pay $10,000 Australian Dollars.
“Another time, we were in the Seychelles and almost home. We checked out of the hotel and we were going to Mozambique, and then we got a message saying there is no fuel in Mozambique. The next day we had to make a plan to go to Madagascar instead.”
The couple crossed the finish line on their adventure on November 6 last year when they touched down on the runway at Port Alfred.
“It was lovely. We had lots of friends trying to find out when we were going to land. There was quite a crowd waiting for us,” Mrs Foster said.
When asked what was going through her mind as they came in to land, she added: “Just relief I think more than anything, wondering who is going to be there to greet you, and then, ‘did we really do it?’ It’s just unreal.”
When asked how she would sum up the trip, she said: “It’s a big mixture. It was stressful, we had some great fun as well, we saw lots of new places and we met lots of lovely people.”