If you had the chance to circumnavigate the globe in a hand-built plane, would you?

Ryan Shields  meeting an employee of S7 Airlines when he stopped for fuel in Novosibirsk, Russia .

by Jenny Guy

With the start of 2016, Ventura resident Ryan Shields was faced with this question. And, while the business owner and father of four had reservations about departing from all that he knew to be part of a journey that covered two oceans, three continents, nine countries and 21 cities, his wife simply said, “You’d be stupid not to.”

Shields first began flying in his twenties in Mammoth Lakes, California. He studied at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and joined the Peace Corps after graduating, where he was stationed in El Salvador. During this time, he developed a love of travel –– venturing through much of Central and South America. Returning stateside, almost two decades ago, Shields married and founded a telecommunications company, placing its headquarters in Ventura, California.

When his business expanded, opening offices in Los Angeles and other locations in the Western United States, Shields decided an airplane was a logical solution to his frequent travel between corporate divisions. He chose the six-seater Epic LT, “a Tesla of the skies,” for its carbon-fiber technology and high-performance handling.

As an experienced pilot and dedicated customer, Shields was offered the opportunity to test the full capabilities of his state-of-the-art aircraft as a participant of the Epic Odyssey World Tour. This inaugural trip was hosted by Oregon-based aviation company Epic Aircraft, which specializes in the design and manufacture of all composite, single-engine turboprop airplanes, like Shields’ Epic LT.

With his family’s encouragement and all lights glowing green, Shields embarked on the first-of-its-kind Epic journey in July 2016. The trip consisted of six Epic aircraft and their owners, including Epic CEO Doug King –– accompanied by professional pilots, staff members and a documentary film crew. Epic and its team of international aviation partners scheduled the logistics of this world tour, and sponsors of the journey included Pratt & Whitney Canada, Garmin, Hartzell, Jeppesen, Spidertracks, Globalstar, and GoPro.

The itinerary spanned 21 days, beginning in Wisconsin and traveling to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, England, Italy, the Czech Republic and Russia. Coordinating prior commitments to go on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, Shields joined the 26-person travel party on the ninth day of the expedition in Prague. The trip ended with a finale in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where participants celebrated their victory at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) conference, AirVenture 2016.

“The longest flight leg spanned from Magadan, Siberia, to Nome, Alaska, totaling more than 1,200 nautical miles,” said Shields. “It really is a testament to Epic’s craftsmanship that all six aircrafts made the entire length of the trip without any major mechanical issues.”

The complete Epic Odyssey World Tour covered 16,405 nautical miles, lasting 51.5 flight hours and achieving an average ground speed of 318.5 knots. Shields, who houses his Epic at Oxnard Airport, explained that he came back from the trip with a new respect for the United States’ airspace and a better understanding of the broader world.

“I found myself in Moscow’s Red Square, and I couldn’t help but think of my time in Washington, D.C., with my family several months earlier at the Blossom Kite Festival,” said Shields. “There are significant similarities between all cultures, and this trip really helped to dispel a lot of geopolitical myths.”

With all 26 voices shouting “success” at the journey’s completion, Epic is currently planning its next world adventure. For more information, please visit www.epicaircraft.com.

Jenny Guy is the director of communications for Mustang Marketing and a resident of the City of Ventura.

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