Day 11.

Up and at em semi early with no really long delays to speak of. That’s a first. A quick 4.5 hour flight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for fuel. Flying into Riyadh is always an experience. Most of the time the conditions are terrible with super high temperatures, hot like the sun, and super, I like that word today, poor visibility due to blowing sand and dust that can blot the sky out as high as 12,000 feet. But if you’re lucky and the winds are low you get to see just what the oil rich Saudis spend their money on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hot as the sun but there’s lot’s of cool buildings and stuff to look at.

The gas and go stop was as quick as could be expected with one small problem. One of the guys fueling us grabbed and bent both of the small metal fences on the wings. It wasn’t that much damage but Stuart was understandably upset, it’s a 2.4 million dollar aircraft after all. After paying for the fuel the gas jockey had the balls to ask for a tip. Needless to say gratuity was not forthcoming. Once we got everything sorted out it was back in the air for another flight over the desert to Fujairah. Our luck was holding with good weather and the last half of the flight being at night. Stuart got his first night landing in almost a year. Not a bad job. So would think that was all for the day wouldn’t you? Well it was, except for the 2 wasted hours we spent with customs as they tried to sort out God knows what. We’re only here for fuel and sleep, why can’t you just stamp our passports and let us go to the hotel? The cherry on top of another long day.

IMG_8670Somebody’s summer cabin.

IMG_8677Setting up the approach on the Garmin 1000

IMG_8680On final in Fujairah.

Day 10.

Day 10.

Bright and early saw us off the runway as the sun was coming up. There were a few thunderstorms in the area but we really didn’t know where they were because the teenage girl in the Met office didn’t have access to radar. She did have a TV with the latest Greek soap opera on it though. Jack hand flew the takeoff and climb to altitude and did a passable job of it seeing that he hadn’t flown IFR in the clouds for many years. Once on top we were greeted to a beautiful morning for flying with the clouds hanging low over the islands and the mountain tops sticking through and once clear of the weather we had a ringside seat for a tour of the Greek islands. Not a bad way to spend the morning. We weren’t allowed to spend the night in Santorini but we were allowed to stop for a quick fuel stop. Once again we were teased by a beautiful island paradise that we could only get a tiny taste of. Santorini is now on my list of places I need to go back to. During flight planning our route was changed by Brussels and the man filling the flight plan asked us if we objected to flying over Israeli airspace. We didn’t see why not and accepted the new routing to Aquaba Jordan. Back into the air with Stuart flying it looked like we were in for a nice sunny low key day of flying over the Mediterranean. Shortly after takeoff the tower called and told us that the man who’d filed the flight plan had misread our call sign and had filed us as 45B instead of 4SB. She told us that she could try and change it for us but it might take a while, could we stand being 45B for the next 4 hrs?. Sure, no problem. Or maybe big problem.

“45B, Athens Control, Tel Aviv has denied your flight through their airspace. Do you have another routing preference?”

Great. We’d been flying for two and a half hours and were in the middle of the Mediterranean headed for Israeli airspace when the rug got pulled out from under us. I asked for our original routing and was denied. I asked for a second option and was again denied. It looked like we would have to fly south to Cairo. The problem with that was that we didn’t have that much fuel to spare and flying that way would be cutting it close. No other option though so south we went.

“45B, Cairo control, what’s your overflight permission number?”

Great, Not only weren’t we planning on over flying Egypt but I had no idea that you needed one. As a matter of fact I was pretty sure you didn’t. But none of that mattered to the guy on the other end of the radio so he put us in a holding pattern while Stuart got on his sat phone and called our handlers to find out just what the hell to do. Did I mention that we really didn’t have the gas for this bullshit? Oh, and the language barrier didn’t help either. At one point they asked what our diplomatic mission number was and after getting a big ????? from us they asked us to confirm our call sing. Ah, that might be the problem. Due to the mistake made in our call sign the Israelis had probably looked us up prior to letting us into their airspace and when it came up wrong that’s when they denied us access. I gave the Cairo controller the correct call sign and hoped for the best.

After about half an hour of turning circles over the pyramids they suddenly gave us a new heading and routing to Jordan, must have just gotten sick of us. I was cool that they took us right over Cairo international airport and I got a great picture of some old jet in the middle of their terminal.

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Finally made it up the Red sea and landed in Aquaba Jordan where we spent the evening on the hotel’s pool deck drinking beer and watching the cars wreck themselves on he street below. Seriously, there was some kind of oil slick on a curve right below where we were sitting and there were 4 accidents in about and hour and a half. This actually ended up being bad for us because it was so entertaining, and the beer was so cheap, that we stayed too long, which led to another late dinner, which put us in bed at about 12:30 am local with a wake up of 5:00. Ugh. It gets hard to catch up on sleep flying east and losing 2-3 hours to time zones each day. The beer doesn’t help either.

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Day….Whatever

Day 9.

We got a late start this morning due to problems filing our flight plan to Corfu Greece. Just five days prior the European Union had changed their online filing system and as you can guess it was going smooth as silk. I won’t bore you with the details but we left about 3 hours later than we were intending to. Right after takeoff we ran into the most icing we’d encountered so far one the trip as we climbed up to 18,000 feet to cross the Alps. Stuart turned on the TKS system which did a fairly good job of clearing the wings and struts of the ice that had built up there. (In case you’re not familiar with the TKS system it consists of a 20 gallon tank full of de-icing fluid that is pumped into the wings, struts, and prop and through thousands of microscopic holes in the leading edges) After clearing the alps, which were disappointingly hidden by clouds, we flew down the Italian coast then across to the beautiful Greek island of Corfu. I stopped at Corfu last year on my way to Bangkok and immediately fell in love. It has the warm air and picturesque harbor you would expect from one of the Greek islands. After fueling I headed up to the tower to file the flight plan to Crete only to find out that due to it being high season they were full. That’s right, the huge international airport in Crete was full and had no parking spaces left for us. The guys in the tower helped me look for another airport to land for the night but had no luck. Every island within range was full. Oh well I tried, I guess we will have to spend the night in Corfu and head out early to make up for lost time. A quick dash to the hotel was made followed by the traditional after flight libation in paradise. Unfortunately we only had time for a quick dinner by the bay before it was back to the hotel for another long 4 hours of sleep before getting up at 5:30. Sometimes being a ferry pilot is just a tease.

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Not a good for viewing the Alps.

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Getting icy.

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Stuart doing good on O2 even with the crappy fitting mask.

IMG_8347Nice way to end the day.

More From The Road

Sorry I keep falling behind in my posting but ferry flying east means losing hours as you cross time zones the wrong way and that means losing sleep. 4-6 hours of sleep for 2 week straight is starting to get dangerous. Here’s a few photos to keep you occupied.

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Road To Singapor Day 6, 7, and 8

Day 6.

So what can you do when you have a day off in Greenland? As it turns out, not much. We checked into the hotel because they finally had rooms, shoped for some cheap crap, finally finding something worth buying, and had dinner, a lovely fusion of Musk Ox and Thai food, and spent the rest of the day talking with the boys about the weather and bad things that can happen to those who go flying when they should have stayed on the ground. We our decision not to fly but hey, we’re still alive aren’t we?

Day 7.

I’m sure the look on our faces said it all while we listened to the Danish weather briefer give us the scoop. The weather crossing the icecap was forecst to be goodbut once again Iceland was supposed to be crappy. Not as bad as the last two days but still on the scary side. The forecast was for low clouds and strong winds at the time we should arrive. The clouds were supposed to be around 500 feet, low but doable. What was giving us the sour face was that 3 hours after, the fog was supposed to come back in and possibly close the airport down. If the forecast was accurate we should be having after dinner drinks by the time that happened but if the fog came early we might be screwed. So it was decision time. Go for it and risk being forced to fly a zero zero approach if the fog came early or stay put and risk getting stuck in Greenland for god knows how long. The one ting we had going for us was that there was a small airport with a gravel strip on the east coast of Greenland that we could possibly land at if we got into trouble called Kulusuk. We’d have to call Iceland for weather and make a decision before we got to far from Greenland because once we hit the point of no return we’d be commited. It was a tough call but none of wanted to be stuck in Greenland any longer. So we took off over the icecap and headed for Iceland, caution to the winds and all that. I love to tell you a harrowing story of how we pulled out every trick in the book in order to get into Reykjavik after fog covered the airport but the flight over the icecap was smooth as silk and even though there were low clouds over Iceland the glass cockpit and auto pilot in the Caravan made the approach a non-event.

Day 8.

Good weather and tailwinds made the flight to Wick a pleasant one. One the ground I introduced Stuart and Jack to my old friend Andrew (the Bruce). Andrew runs Far North Aviation and has been providing survival suits, rafts, fuel, and advise for ferry pilots for 25 years. His biggest pet peeve are impatient pilots who have a deadline to meet and don’t stay on the ground when they should. He should know because an average of 3 pilots a year go down in the north Atlantic and most of them were either flying to or leaving Scotland. Stuart asked Andrew if he had any of the TKS anti-icing fluid that the Caravan uses and was promptly informed that TKS fluid was a rip-off and that he made his own brew which he sold half the price. Stuart was dubious but having no other choice bought five gallons. After pouring the counterfeit TKS fluid into the Caravan we took off for a quick 4 hour flight to St. Gall Switzerland, a beautiful little city located at the base of the Alps. It was another beautiful flight over central Europe and whenever I’m there I can’t help but remember that just 70 years ago those sky’s were filled with thousands of bombers and fighters.

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The Road To Singapore Day 5.

Day 5.

We left Iqaluit in the rear view mirror at the unusually early time of “still morning” and headed for Greenland, OK we don’t have a rear-view mirror but get what I mean. As we flew across Baffin Island we flew over a manned weather station in the middle of nowhere. I looked down and counted my blessings that I didn’t have to work there. Control had us climb 1000 feet because we were overtaking traffic and it wasn’t long before we saw our new friends sloging along in their Twin Otter below us.(Suck it slow pokes!) We had our survival suits handy but we not wearing them crossing the Davis Straight to Greenland because if we lost our engine at 13,000 we’d have 20 minutes or more before we went swimming. With that amount time one pilot could fly while the other got ready to ditch. When I fly solo over the ocean I wear the suit. It wasn’t long before we saw the mountains of Greenland appear over the horizon. I love the mountains of the Greenland coast because they’re so tightly packed and sharp. Looking at them made me happy that we were flying up a wide fjord enroute to the airport.

After landing both crews were informed that the main hotel was fully booked and that we’d have to spend the night in the hostel, wonderful. Not wanting to hang out in our cells the 5 of us headed to the disco/pizzeria/Thi food joint for the usual post flight briefing where we all agreed that we were indeed magnificent pilots for having crossed such and difficult part of the world. As a matter of fact the more we discussed it the more we were impressed with ourselves. Before going to the hostel we’d looked at the next day’s weather and saw that Iceland would still be blocked by the same strong low that had been in our way the day before. That meant that we couldn’t fly the next day. It also meant that we didn’t have to fly the next day, and you know what that means.

It was a fun night with the boys filled with pool, darts and bullshit. I traded winter camping tips with an eskimo from Virginia with a degree in English literature who ran tours on the ice cap and spoke fluent Dutch and fended off an old lady who’s boyfriend was “out of town” Like I said, A fun night.

I’ll have more pictures later when I get better WiFi and arent? Isnent? Not so damn tired.

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The Road To Singapore Day 3, 4,

Day 3.

I don’t know what it is about the morning of a day I don’t have to fly but I always feel like shit when I wake up. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that if I don’t have to get up early and fly I tend to stay out a bit later working on public relations. After dinner last night Stuart, Jack and I headed of to go visit the blind and read to the poor but somehow we ended up at a bar, I hate when that happens. Well, one thing led to another and before we knew it we were playing pool with the locals who had recognized me from Dangerous Flights, (if you don’t know what that is you must live under a rock, or have a life.) Anyway I’m a pretty big deal in Goose Bay and that means autographs and photos with my fans, which is hard work, which makes a third rate reality TV star thirsty, which leads to a fuzzy head the next morning. Where was I? Oh yes day 3. Anyway we managed to get in touch with a mechanic who fixed our flat tire with the spare tube Stuart was smart enough to bring along. He actually has the plane filled with spare parts which is smart because getting parts in remote areas can be a challenge. I’d love to say day 3 was filled with more exciting adventures but that pretty much covers it.

Day 4.

We arrived at the Goose Bay airport all raring to go to Narsarsuaq Greenland only to get a weather report that wan’t all that hot. The charts showed a low pressure system off the coast that was forecast to give us low clouds and strong winds in Greenland. That’s usually considered a bad thing when trying to get into Narsarsuaq due to it being nestled deep in a fjord surrounded by steep mountains. Strong winds create severe turbulence and low clouds could prevent you from making it in at all. Also a bad thing when there is no where else to go. There was another flight crew there trying get to the same place and we bounced ideas off each other for a while before deciding that it was just too dangerous to make an attempt at Greenland. To make matters worse it looked like that low pressure system was going to make flying to Greenland and then on to Iceland very difficult due to the thick clouds that would undoubtedly contain a moderate to severe icing hazard. As nice as Goose Bay is none of us wanted to be stuck there for the next week so we saddled up and headed north to Frobishure Bay and the equally lovely town of Iqaluit on Baffin island. Our evil plan from there was to fly across the Davis Straight to Sonderstrom and follow the Arctic circle across to Iceland thus avoiding the crappy weather. That was our plan anyway. When we landed in Iqaluit (Ill a qwat) I saw a good looking blond pilot of the female variety in a rather warm looking flight suit stepping out of a Twin Otter with “BRITISH SURVAY” stenciled on the side. It turns out she works for the company that flies the Twin Otters that haul around and supply the British scientists that study the Antartctic so of course I asked her if they needed any pilots. “Always” She said. That made suspicious. “Why is that?” “Because it’s a six month contract in Antarctica and that gets kind of long.” She had a point but I think I’d love flying a Twin Otter on skis in Antarctica, maybe not for six months, but still………..I had her write down the necessary information for applying for the job……………………. Don’t tell my wife.

I have a TON of great photos to post but the WIFI has been really poor the last few so please stay tuned.

 

Trip Warning! Launch The Alert 5 Ferry Pilot!

And here we go again. Cory from CB Aviation called last week wondering if I’d be interested in helping a pilot and his father in law ferry his brand new Cessna Grand Caravan from the US to Singapore. I wanted to say HELL YES!! But leaving just as the skydiving season is heating up is not exactly what I would call perfect timing. What I should do is stay home and put all my energy into my drop zone and spend as much quality time with Number One Son before he heads off to basic training in September. But as I have confessed before I have what the doctors call “Can’t say no” syndrome. So as you might have guessed I’m sitting in a cheap hotel in Goose Bay Labrador getting ready to cross the North Atlantic once again. OK, maybe you didn’t guess that I was in Goose but it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that I accepted the trip.

  So a brief report of the trip so far. Problem one, because a ferry flight is just a series of problems to be solved, the owner, I’ll call him Stuart, because that’s his name, and his father-in-law, I’ll call him Jack, for no particular reason, wanted to fly the Caravan east over the North Atlantic, through Europe, the middle east, India and through Thailand to Singapore. And in order to do that we all needed to get Visas from India. The problem with that was it usually takes up to ten days to get a visa and we didn’t want to wait that long. I proposed flying west through Russia and down through China, Korea, and Vietnam. I proposed this route for a number of reasons; Number one it was about 2500 miles shorter to go west. Number two, I’ve already flown the east route to Singapore and I wanted to see China and Vietnam. Number three, I’ve almost piloted a plane around the entire world except for a small section of Latitude, or is it Longitude? I can never remember which one runs up and down, from Singapore to the Manila. If we flew west to get to Singapore I will finally completed my goal of flying around the whole globe. OK the last 2 reasons are kind of selfish but I still they are good reasons. Unfortunately Stuart was uncomfortable with the current US-Russian relations so east is was. Luckily we were able to get our visas in just a few days and head out. The first stop was supposed to be Bangor Maine but a line of thunderstorms forced us up to Sault Ste Marie making our first day a long and relatively unproductive one. Day gave us bright blue skies and a smooth ride up to Goose Bay Labrador with a fuel stop in  Chibougomau. That’s pronounced Sha booog a mooo. The weather at Goose was kind of crappy giving Stuart a chance to put his glass cockpit to use by having the auto pilot fly the approach. Everything was going smoothly until some kind of alarm started wailing and the autopilot kick off catching Stuart completely off guard. In the few seconds it took him to react the plane had drifted off the glide path and localizer. I could have helped him but this pop quiz was just what Stuart needed to get him back up to speed flying IFR. He was a little rough at first but he managed to fly a pretty good approach at the end. After we landed and started unloading the plane I noticed something a little out sorts.

IMG_8040I think that might delay us getting to Greenland.