Due to the overwhelming response it got during the first half of its historic Kayang-Kaya (We Can Do It) Historic Flight for Dreams world tour, South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) has decided to extend its Do-24ATT seaplane's trip around the world, creating more opportunities to boost Philippine tourism, promote the airline and raise more funds and awareness for the projects of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The vintage German-made vintage seaplane Do-24ATT, piloted by SEAIR Chairman Captain Iren Dornier and manned by an almost all-Filipino crew, began its world tour last April 16 and has now covered 22,000 nautical miles. So far, it has been to 31 destinations in 19 countries including Cambodia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, France, Austria, Germany, England, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the United States of America, guesting in a number of airshows and doing several display flights and a lot of water landings.
The seaplane was originally expected to be welcomed back in Manila this Christmas. But due to so much publicity and numerous requests for the Do-24ATT to visit different places and airshows, particularly in Europe, the plane had to spend the whole summer in that continent.
"Thousands and thousands of people came to see the airplane wherever it landed, especially when we did the landings in Germany," shared SEAIR Director Nikos Gitsis. "At one time, around 15,000 people came to watch the plane land at the Lake of Konstanz in Friedrichschafen, Germany."
Captain Dornier, who is German, is retracing his grandfather Claude's epic 1930-31 tour on another seaplane, the giant Do-X. The Do-24ATT comes from a family of seaplanes designed by the elder Dornier. The younger Dornier restored his grandfather's "flying boat" to be able to live out his lifelong dream of flying it around the world and to continue his family's legacy of aviation excellence.
Captain Dornier and his crew had a lot of adventures during the first half of the trip. "There was a time when they flew through a thunderstorm and the plane was hit by lightning but it didn't do any damage; it passed right through the wing. There was no problem; airplanes are built to withstand that. There were several difficult flight situations but nothing dangerous," said Gitsis. He adds that documentation and correspondence is usually mostly via satellite phone, mobile phone, e-mail and in some locations, the project has designated offices to help the tour.
When the Do-24ATT crossed the Atlantic Ocean, it reached the halfway mark of its world tour. The first half ended with the stop to North America. The plane is currently on display at the Batavia Airport near Rochester, New York, and SEAIR was able to bring Captain Dornier and the crew home for a brief respite.
"It's been nine months since they've (the crew) been flying around and we wanted to bring the crew home to see their families," said Gitsis. "At the same time, we're (SEAIR) bringing in new airplanes for the airline so Captain Dornier had to come back to fly the planes to the Philippines."
SEAIR recently turned over a donation of $61,000 to UNICEF Country Representative Dr. Nicholas Alipui in a simple turnover ceremony held at the Discovery Suites in Ortigas last December 16.
"When Iren and I first came to the Philippines, we dreamt that one of our visions for the airline would be to give back to the community. This is the fulfillment of our dream. Initially, we wanted to raise $50,000 and we have exceeded that, and we think we can raise over $100,000," Gitsis shared. The money will be used for UNICEF programs on education and awareness of the situation of children around the world.
UNICEF-Philippines is very grateful for the airline's support. "On behalf of the children who will be benefiting from this, a million thanks to Captain Dornier and his crew for this extraordinary project that they have embarked on. They are flying around the world for the cause of children. We in UNICEF are proud to be associated with this project," said Dr. Alipui.
Captain Dornier and his crew will resume the tour sometime in March next year. They have known from the start that this project will not be an easy one. Sacrifices have been made and a lot of difficulties have been experienced. But Dornier knows that as he lives out his dreams, he has the opportunity to make children's dreams come true as well. As SEAIR prepares for the second half of the tour, he plans to raise more funds and awareness for the children. "Not enough has been done, not enough people are aware about the situation of our children. The children are our future and we should take care of our future."