One man has seen Indonesia, Alaska, Australia, Taiwan, Russia, Canada, Iceland and Japan – all in 25 days.
Mike Laver landed back in Aiken on Sept. 17 after his first flight around the world.
While the traveler has flown across the Atlantic Ocean before, this is the first time he has “circumnavigated the globe in one hit,” as he put it, with his N50ET model of the Mitsubishi MU-2 airplane line.
“Everything just performed beautifully,” he said.
A prompt for this journey was the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the MU-2 from Nagoya, Japan, which took place on Sept. 14.
“I’ve always had the ambition to fly an MU-2 around the world,” Laver said. “I thought (this occasion) was a great thing to incorporate.”
However, there was quite a lot Laver had to do before he got to celebrate this day.
One was to pick up travel journalist Mike Collins. Collins writes for the AOPA Pilot magazine and would be blogging about Laver’s trip.
Collins was the first companion Laver has had on an international travel.
On Aug. 25, Laver left Aiken and flew up to Frederick, Md., to meet Collins for the first time.
“He came highly recommended,” Laver said. After meeting him, “I realized he was a very fine person and that it would work between us. And it did ... it worked out well.”
Their next stop was Goose Bay, Canada.
On day 20, they touched down in Nagoya.
Laver was welcomed before he even came into the city. Two Japanese citizens had reached out and emailed the pilot before he landed.
“They were so grateful that somebody would take one of their products and do something like this,” Laver said. “You could read how much they respected us doing this.”
When Collins and Laver arrived, more men and women were at the airport to greet them, including Toru “Tod” Takasu, the manager of MU-2 product support for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
“You are a hero of Japan,” said one email to Laver.
“And it was a hero’s welcome that we received in Nagoya early on the afternoon of Sept. 13,” Collins wrote in his blog. “After turning left off the taxiway toward parking, ... we both were surprised to see nearly 100 people waiting near the general aviation terminal building, standing on stairs and landings above the ramp and looking on from adjoining hangars. Several were waving small flags – mostly Japanese, some American and one or two Australian flags (Laver is a native and citizen of Australia). We heard applause when he opened the cabin door and stepped out.”
The traveling pair were walked through a couple of aviation museums and received a traditional Japanese dinner that night.
Laver recalled that the people were wonderful. He hadn’t told them he was coming, so he was touched by it all.
“You never really got to know the Japanese, the company representatives and the people who built that airplane, and it was so much for me to get to meet them, to get to know them and understand them,” he said.
The trip held another personal sidebar for Laver. On day 12, the flying team arrived in Latrobe Valley, Australia. It was there, more than 40 years ago, that Laver first sat in an airplane and learned to fly.
He and Collins were greeted by Laver’s mother and brother at the airport, according to Collins’ blog.
“All of sudden, no matter how bad the reception is on the radio, you know exactly what they are saying,” Laver said on this part of the trip. “Being at home, being in your own country ... was nice.”
Though Laver now resides in Aiken, he tries to make it back to Australia at least once a year.
Overall, this global journey took a year’s worth of planning, Laver said. He had to check out airports – making sure they were able to provide the services he needed and would be opened when he arrived. He had to check his plane – testing its equipment and limitations.
Leah Kadar-Hodd, his assistant at his company Air 1st Aviation Companies Inc., helped him make other arrangements such as communicating with the company BaseOps. Together, she and the company made sure other details such as Laver’s accommodations and visas were handled.
Moving through so many countries in such a short span of time would have been a great challenge for many. For Laver, who has piloted internationally since he was 21, it still was; however, his experiences and advanced technology were there to assist.
When Laver first started, he used a map to navigate. Now, his plane has a GPS device installed.
To adjust to the time differences, Collins and Laver made sure they went to bed early and arose early the next morning.
Laver did get euros and Australian currency. Other than that, he used his credit card.
Communicating was not a huge issue within the airport.
“English is the international language with aviation,” Laver said.
As far as comprehending people due to the differences in accents and lingoes, “it was difficult but you’ve just got to pay attention,” he said.
Outside the airports, not everyone spoke English. However, Collins and Laver adjusted as need be.
Overall, this was a successful trip, Laver said.
When he landed back at the Aiken Municipal Airport, his wife Anne and his friends greeted him with a “W-E-L-C-O-M-E H-O-M-E!” sign.
“Seeing my wife and so many close friends on my arrival back to (Aiken) made this a wonderful ending to a life-long dream,” Laver reflected in his blog.
To read more about Laver’s experiences, visit Collins’ blog at http://blog.aopa.org/blog/?cat=935&paged=3 or Laver’s blog at www.air1st.com/around-the-word-n50et/around-the-world-blog.html.
Stephanie Turner has a hand on all areas of production for the Aiken Standard, where she reports, edits and designs pages. She graduated in July 2012 with a journalism degree from Valdosta State University and lives with her family in Evans, Ga.
Submitted Photo by Mike Collins Day six was the first time journalist Mike Collins, left, and Mike Laver put on captains’ uniforms. They were on their way to Kuwait City.×
Submitted Photo The Nagoya Castle is one stop Mike Laver and journalist Mike Collins went to while in Nagoya, Japan.×
Submitted Photo by Mike Collins On day 22, Mike Laver and Mike Collins arrived in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia. Here, according to Collins, you can see the town near the water and mountains below.×
Submitted Photo by Mike Collins This is Mike Laver’s Mitsubishi MU-2 at the beginning of the almost-month journey.×
Submitted Photo by Larry Gleason Friends and family gathered to throw a surprise party for Mike Laver days before he left. The plane model pictured represents the plane he used for the trip.×
Submitted Photo by Larry Gleason Mike Laver with his wife Anne standing beside the map which shows the route he took on his 25-day journey.×
Submitted Photo by Larry Gleason Former South Carolina Sen. Greg Ryberg reads a letter from Gov. Nikki Haley’s office that was sent to Mike Laver, left, wishing him well on his trip. Laver’s friends and family gathered days before his trip to throw him a party and wish him well.×
Submitted Photo by Larry Gleason Mike Laver surrounded by his family and friends upon his arrival home.×
Submitted Photo by Mike Collins While exploring Latrobe Valley, Australia, Mike Collins passes caution signs for koalas and kangaroos. However, he claimed he saw neither.×
Staff Photo by Stephanie Turner Mike Laver standing beside the plane he just spent 25 days in.×
Submitted Photo by Mike Collins Pictured is a volcano and crater in Indonesia.×