Pilot circles globe in grandfather’s seaplane | SierraSun.com

Pilot circles globe in grandfather’s seaplane

David Bunker

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun Iren Dornier landed his vintage 1938 Dornier seaplane on Lake Tahoe on Tuesday afternoon as part of his flight around the world. Phoro's by Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun

Iren Dornier piloted his vintage 1938 seaplane over Lake Tahoe Monday evening, dipping to skim the lake in the dimming light before coming to land in Truckee.”We kissed the water yesterday,” Dornier said of his flight up from San Diego into Truckee. “I needed to feel it.”The week-long stay in Truckee for Dornier and his refurbished aluminum aircraft is part of a two-year global mission to raise money for children in the Philippines. After a year-long mission through Asia, Europe and the Middle East, Dornier is taking the plane throughout North and South America, raising funds for the United Nations Children’s Fund chapter in the Philippines.Dornier is the grandson of aviation pioneer Claude Dornier, who founded the Dornier line of airplanes. And he is following in his grandfather’s footsteps in two respects. His global mission has set him on a path that retraces his grandfather’s flights in a Dornier Do-X seaplane, which at the time was the largest, heaviest and most powerful aircraft in the world. And Iren Dornier, owner of a commercial airline in the Philippines, has become an aircraft engineer and designer in his own right. He is currently building new aluminum seaplanes he designed himself.

A Dream MissionThe dream to own and pilot one of the flying boats designed by his grandfather began when Iren Dornier was 12, sitting in the cockpit of an original Dornier seaplane.”I got to fly an original one when I was 12,” he said. “From that moment on it got into my system.”But by the time Dornier was ready to buy the German-designed seaplane, they were almost nonexistent.

Then, in December 2002, he strolled into a museum near Munich, Germany and saw the Do-24 seaplane, his favorite model of his grandfather’s designs, on display. Undeterred by the fact that the aircraft was an exhibit, Dornier made an offer to buy the plane. The museum, and the owner that had lent the plane to the museum, decided to give the craft to Dornier.But that was only the beginning of the work. To return the aluminum exhibit to the skies took a lot of time and a load of money.”The airplane was in terrible shape,” Dornier said. “It needed to be rebuilt entirely.”After pouring $6 million into restoring and rebuilding the plane, Dornier was ready to take it on an epic trip.Entitled “Mission Dream,” the aircraft’s global tour has fulfilled Dornier’s vision to pilot a seaplane around the world, as well as fulfill the dreams of hundreds of Filipino children by raising more than $60,000 for their education.”UNICEF is very active in the Philippines,” Dornier said. “We have so many problems with education and awareness.”

The Truckee chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association is hosting the aircraft’s stay in Truckee. They held a spaghetti dinner on Tuesday night as a fundraiser for UNICEF.The plane, and the fundraising mission that has sent the crew across the globe, is especially fulfilling for Dornier, said Susan Wilcox, a crew member for the second leg of the trip.”This plane is his pride and joy – a dream come true,” Wilcox said.Flights to Lake Tahoe on the seaplane, including a touchdown in the lake, will be offered this week to those willing to make an appropriate donation to the Philippines chapter of UNICEF. For more information, or to schedule a flight, call project coordinator Shiella Cabi-ao at 646-660-0267. The aircraft will be based at the Truckee Tahoe Airport until Friday.