One can say that Captain Joy Roa's official job title is 'recreational aviator.'
A man who's always worked for himself, Capt. Roa is the most committed advocate of the aviation industry. A lifetime member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, he has traversed the landscapes of Europe, North America, and Asia more than most commercial aircrews in the country.
With a veteran's license to pilot almost any industrial air vehicle—hot air balloons, float planes, helicopters, you name it—it's no surprise that his next venture took him to the small screen. In 2005, he started Asian Air Safari, the first show in the continent to explore different countries from a bird's eye view. Each episode follows Capt. Roa exploring a place with a local friend and introducing an air vehicle or aviation activity remarkable to the culture of his destination.
Since it first aired, the show has covered nearly 280 cities and 65 countries. Capt. Roa's success comes from a career that places him in his element: a genuine love for new places, new faces and a pair of strong wings.
What are your favorite destinations so far and what makes these places special?
In Europe, Italy has always been a favorite — I always said I was Italian in my past life. In Asia, I always enjoy Japan for their rich culture, politeness, attention to detail, and sense of discipline. These are two countries we've shot the most episodes in!
What are the 5 places to visit for their architecture?
I've always had a deep appreciation for old architecture. There's much to learn from things that have withstood the test of time. Rajasthan, India for the colors; Bagan, Myanmar for the temples spread across the plains; Lalibela, Ethiopia for the rock-hewn churches; Morocco for the Moorish architecture; and Toledo, Spain for the well-preserved medieval buildings.
Give us your best travel anecdote.
A friend and I were on a round-the-world flight on a Pilatus PC-12. We'd just come from Nome, Alaska, eating reindeer steak and Alaskan crabs. Our next destination was Sendai, Japan, with a refueling stop in Petropavlovsk, Russia. From Alaska to Russia, we faced strong headwinds at 80 knots, short supply of fuel, and almost got stranded on St. Paul's Island, a gravel airstrip. We did get to Sendai eventually, and celebrated the rough trip with some Sendai steak!
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue No. 24 2018.