Around the world in an R66 helicopter

A Robinson R66 helicopter lifted off from the heliport at Whistler, British Columbia, earlier this month to embark on a globe-spanning adventure.

The R66 turbine being used for the EPIC Tour will have some special equipment on board for the lengthy and challenging trip. BC Helicopters Photo

The EPIC (Empowering People & Inspiring Change) Tour began on May 1 and will fly to more than 40 countries, covering 30,000 kilometres, before returning to Whistler 84 days later.

Flying the R66 are Ruben Dias, entrepreneur and venture capitalist, and Mischa Gelb, president of BC Helicopters. Diogo Dias will document the trip, taking photos from the passenger seats during most of the planned legs.

“Ruben’s passion is to see young people pursuing their dreams, and ideally becoming entrepreneurs,” said Gelb.

“We’re going to give talks all around the world, inspiring people to pursue a life of entrepreneurship. And we’re coupling that with healthy lifestyle. Both of us live a plant-based vegan lifestyle, and we’re passionate about that, because we feel that the health benefits make you a more vibrant person.”

The EPIC Tour will travel to more than 40 countries, covering 18,600 miles in roughly 84 days. The planned route is illustrated above. BC Helicopters Image

Gelb is planning to make extensive use of social media to provide coverage of the trip, with videos every day–but Saturday–on his “Pilot Yellow” YouTube channel. Of German descent, Gelb’s last name means “yellow” in German.

Photo coverage will be on Gelb’s Instagram account — @bchelicopters.

The R66 normally flies from BC Helicopters’ base in Abbotsford, B.C., and will have some special equipment on board for the lengthy and challenging trip. New GPS avionics, Iridium satphones and a ferry tank will be installed, and the crew will carry life rafts and survival suits for the over-water legs. The entire trip will be flown under visual flight rules.

“There are some legs that we’re going to be right up to gross [weight],” explained Gelb. “There’s one leg in Russia that will be about 410 nautical miles and take over four hours. We’re going to leave Diogo behind on that leg, so he’ll be taking an airline over to Alaska. We’re going to need too much fuel to have him along.”

To make a passenger seat available for social media influencers who would like to experience a flight, gear will be pre-positioned–such as over-water survival equipment–to reduce the load in the R66.


And no big suitcases for the crew. “Honestly, each of us is going to have a small backpack. A couple of t-shirts, a couple of pairs of pants, and that’s about it,” said Gelb.

Ruben Dias (left) will be flying the R66 helicopter on its cross-globe journey, along with the president of BC Helicopters, Mischa Gelb. BC Helicopters Photo

He expects the R66 will be airborne for 75 days, with a total of 330 flight hours to complete the trip. Routine maintenance will take place in Boston, Mass.; Dubai; and Japan; and Gelb’s brother, Sancho, will fly out from BC Helicopters for “extended weekends” to take care of the R66.

More information can be found on the EPIC website, which also features a live flight-tracker.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to go around world, someday,” said Gelb. “And when I told Ruben, he lit up and said, ‘It’s my dream as well–let’s do it!’ “

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