When delivering an aircraft you’ve never seen before the first thing you do after giving it a thorough pre-flight is to take her out for a spin. During the test flight you check all the systems on the plane, making sure that everything works as advertized. You only have a short flight to decide weather or not if you’re going to trust that strange aircraft over the ocean. You can also have a little fun during the test flight, have to ensure that the plane can do a proper wing-over if the need arises. sometimes you can get in a little sight seeing as well. When Marcio, my co-pilot for this trip, and I were done checking out the systems on the jet we took a pass inside Sydney harbor. Sometimes this job is a little bit of alright.
Last fall I was hired to help ferry a Phenom 100 from Sydney to Las Vegas and finally got the chance to fly a jet. The aircraft was beautiful and flying it was surprisingly easy. It handled well, wasn’t too complicated and was above all FAST! To be fair the Phenom isn’t considered to be particularly fast in the business jet world but when you’re used to prop speeds three hundred fifty knots is blazing across the sky. The trip took six days and was one hell of an adventure. In the coming days I’ll hit the high points, no pun intended, of the trip.
jThis is what the screen of the Cirrus showed as Stu and I approached Cannes France over the Mediterranean last November. The little X’s are lightening strikes and the white line to the right of the airplane symbol was our original course. The lightening storm popped up very quickly and we were lucky to find gap to fly through. Sorry about the quality of the picture but it was kinda bumpy.
Woohoo! Just got word that the reality show I was filming last year is going to be shown on the Discovery Channel in Canada on April 30th! The show is called “DANGEROUS FLIGHTS” and is about ferry pilots delivering small aircraft to new owners around the world. I made four trips for the show last summer and fall, a nine passenger twin engine Navajo from Florida to Argentina, a four passenger single engine Beech Bonanza from North Carolina to Brazil, a six passenger Phenom 100 jet from Sydney to Las Vegas and a four passenger single engine Cirrus from Singapore to Ohio. The show was a blast to film and we even managed to almost get killed a few times, makes for good TV don’t you know. As soon as I find out when it will air in the US. I’ll let you know.
Last summer while delivering an F33 Bonanza from North Carolina to Porto Alegre, Brazil my co-pilot Stu and I met the owner of the hotel we were staying at in Georgetown British Guiana. He was quite a story teller and sort of a famous pilot in the area. His big claim to fame was being the first pilot to land in Jonestown after the massacre and airlift one of the dead congressman’s aids back to Georgetown. When he found out that we were heading south to Macapa in Argentina he suggested we take a small detour and visit Kaietuer Falls. Stu and I had our reservations about making our route over the rainforest any longer than necessary he the hotel owner told us it was worth it.
After flying for an hour and change over flat thick triple canopy rain forest we came upon a series of steep ridges and plateaus rising up out of the mist. We found a river emerging from a deep canyon and assuming that might lead us to a waterfall followed it upstream. When we came around a sharp bend and saw the waterfall we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was fantastic! We made a number of passes over the falls, one down in the canyon with a zoom climb to just miss the water, then headed for Argentina. The fuel situation getting to Macapa was a little tight but getting that shot was totally worth it.
In 2011 I delivered five planes to their new owners around the world. I landed in 32 different countries and hit, maybe not quite the right word, six out of seven continents. Most of my early ferry flights involved crossing the Atlantic Ocean in small single and multi-engine aircraft. In order to get the range required to fly such long distances aircraft making the crossing are often equipped with ferry tanks. These tanks are locked inside the cabin and connected to the fuel system. Adding that much fuel obviously increased the weight of the aircraft, usually exceeding the normal maximum allowable gross weight. When ferrying an aircraft the FAA allows you to exceed the normal limit by twenty five percent. When I first started ferrying there was no GPS system to tell us our position once we were out of range of the land based navigational aids. This meant flying for sometimes up to nine hours with nothing but a compass to follow until you picked up the beacon in the Azores, if you missed the Azores you were going swimming.
I made my first solo transatlantic crossing on December 29,1990. I flew a Piper Duchess from St Johns Newfoundland to Santa Maria in the Azores in seven hours and forty-eight minutes. Scared to death would be putting it mildly as land disappeared behind me and there was nothing but ocean as far as I could see. I was being led by the owner of Orient Air, Pete Demos Who was flying a turbine converted Cessna 206. Halfway to the Azores Pete lost the vacuum pump in the plane he was flying, never a good thing but epically bad that day because we would be arriving well after dark and the weather forecast was for low clouds and rain. Not wanting to fly his disabled aircraft alone we met over the first island in the Azores chain and Pete formed up on my wing. We flew formation in the clouds at night the 350 miles to Santa Maria with Pete using my aircraft as his artificial horizon.
When we got to Santa Maria the air traffic controllers wouldn’t let us fly a formation approach without Pete declaring an emergency. Not wanting to do this because of the potential for day killing paperwork that might be involved Pete broke off from me and waited while I flew the approach first. I broke out of the clouds at eight hundred feet and picked up the runway through the rain. I called Pete and told him how high the clouds were and estimated the visibility at about three miles. Pete acknowledged my report and instead of flying the published approach he elected to descend out over the ocean get below the cloud deck and try and find the lights of the island to guide him to the airport. Unfortunately for Pete the clouds were lower out over the ocean and when he finally broke out he was below five hundred feet and almost crashed into the dark water below. When he finally found the airport and landed he was covered with sweat and pretty shook up. That was my introduction to ferry flying and that trip turned out to be par for the course.