I finally have a day off and some sort of internet, (I thought Europe was supposed to have great internet?) so here’s the latest update from the road.
We left Greenland with 6 Epic LT’s in loose trail about 15 minutes apart. The weather along the route was as nice as it has been for the whole trip. No ice, no bumps, no problems. I should’ve known that we’d get tested sooner or later. We were on the way to Wick Scotland to drop off our survival suits and rafts and re-fuel before heading down to England. The forecast wasn’t too bad for the time of our arrival, broken to overcast clouds at 600 feet and moderate visibility. There was a chance of lower conditions but what were the odds of that happening? The first plane landed and reported that the clouds down to about 400 feet and thick. That got our attention because the minimums for the approach were 460 feet. Our turn next.
I was stuck in the back of the plane on this leg because I’ve been hired to help some of the lesser experienced owners make the crossing and there was no sense in me hogging a seat when most of these guys haven’t made an ocean crossing before. My job was to sit in the back and keep the guys out of trouble and I can do that in the back just as well as I can from the front, most of the time. The owner of the plane I was in was flying this leg. He’s a relatively new pilot with just 500 hours total time and only 150 in airplanes, the rest of his time is in helicopters. But despite his lack of experience he’s a pretty good pilot, and a wiz with the glass cockpit. Sitting up front with him was an instructor from the Epic company making his first trans-Atlantic trip as well. They have both been doing well on the trip so far so I wasn’t too worried but I was still in-between their seats looking over their shoulders and monitoring their progress. It’s that old “trust but verify” thing. I was also trying really really hard to keep my mouth shut and not tell them how to fly and as anybody who’s ever flown with me can attest, I’m not really very good at that.
We set up for shooting the VOR approach on runway 31. A VOR approach is a non-precision approach that provides no glide slope information so it really just tells you where the runway is not if you’re going to run into anything on the way there. We were in heavy rain and clouds on final approach when the co-pilot called out runway in sight. I looked over his and could barely make out the approach lights for the runway through the mist and rain. The owner was a little high (but legal. I would’ve been lower and not so legal) and a little fast but I wasn’t worried because the runway at Wick was almost 6000 feet long. As we got a little closer and lower the runway appeared and something looked wrong. Three quarters of the way down the runway there was a red and white barrier across the runway with construction equipment on the other side cutting the usable amount of runway down considerably. I looked at our speed and height above the runway and knew there was no way we could land and get stopped in time. The co-pilot and the tower concurred because they both said “go around go around!” The pilot slapped the gear up and poured the coals to it.