Happy Ending to the Saga: The Flight to End Polio
By:  Nancy Hawes, South Portland Cape Elizabeth RC, updated by Dave Underhill, Portsmouth RC and Sarah MacGillivray, Bath Sunrise RC
We hope you remember the story of the two Iowa Rotarians who started their around the world trip to raise awareness to the importance of ending polio.  A number of our District 7780 Rotarians turned out for the party at Port City Air, Pease Tradeport in Portsmouth in May at the start of their trip. We are delighted to report that their single-engine Cessna 210 touched down in their home-town, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday, July 30, after circumnavigating the globe to end polio, raising significant awareness and money along the way!
With World Polio Day coming up next month, we thought it was a great time to share their successful story, and get folks thinking about what sort of projects they might be able to do.
Click at Read More below to read the Full Story and details of their amazing trip.
Their story has plenty of drama as you will read, especially as it was playing out. But it’s also a metaphor for the campaign to eradicate polio. It had many highs and lows and there were several points when anyone
with less stick-to-it-iveness would have given up. But like these two pilots, the polio eradication leaders at Rotary, WHO, UNICEF, CDC and the Gates Foundation have never given up. Hopefully
polio eradication will soon have the same happy ending as the Flight to End Polio.
Their adventure is documented on their website:
https://www.flighttoendpolio.com and also on their Facebook page (search “Flight to End Polio”), and much of the below narrative is credited to the open communication by the two pilots, their flight team and
their families, on their Facebook and web pages: they made us partners in their journey.
John Ockenfels and Peter Teahan enchanted us during their visit to Portsmouth, talking about the adventure they had just begun. Their first leg – Iowa to Portsmouth NH – was uneventful, but then
their troubles started. They spent 3 extra days in our district while they got a new alternator for the plane. Then, after setting out for Newfoundland, they had several days more delays due to sleet and
freezing rain – in May!
They finally made it to Iceland and from there to Europe, visiting Scotland, Netherlands, Germany and Greece. (They had to cancel planned visits to Denmark and Portugal.) They made an
unscheduled stop in Rome because they had issues with their fuel. After Greece they toured the Middle East, visiting Jordan, Abu Dhabi and Pakistan (where they were able to immunize children
with polio vaccine drops).
At their first stop in India, they were waylaid again: one of the pilots (Peter) got sick and had to be hospitalized, plus there were more issues with the plane. While their plane was grounded, the other
pilot (John) flew commercially to other destinations in India and eventually Peter was able to join him.
After the plane and health issues were squared away, they flew on to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and then Darwin and Cairns in Australia. Unfortunately, Peter was hospitalized again in
Cairns and John flew solo on to Brisbane, where the plane’s autopilot was fixed. After Peter was well, they set out for New Caledonia but returned to Brisbane due to a failure of the alternator (déjà vu).
After the plane was repaired yet again, they set off and made stops in New Caledonia, Fiji, Pago Pago and Hawaii. The last two legs involved flying for many hours (16 to Hawaii and 15 to Oakland,
California) over open ocean with no Plan B if there were major mechanical issues. But thankfully both legs were uneventful, and they were back in mainland US, landing in Oakland on Tuesday
night, July 25. Their last leg took place Sunday, July 30th, and they were welcomed with a pancake breakfast at their home airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.