The Race Part 5

After nearly getting hauled off to the Tower of London the night before Marcio and I pointed the Cirrus north towards Scotland, our last stop before taking on the North Atlantic. As we got closer to the ocean crossing Marcio got more and more nervous, with good reason.

Flying the North Atlantic, or any ocean for that matter, in a single engine piston is nothing to sneeze at. There’s a trail of aluminum sitting at the bottom of the sea along the ocean crossing routes that will attest to that fact. And every one of those planes was flown by a pilot who thought he could make it.

But in Marcio’s case he had extra reasons to be scared. Number one was that he hadn’t flown anything but airliners and business jets in many years and just getting into a small plane scared him. (and he barely fit into the Cirrus anyway) Number two was that we were heavy. With three adult men (make that three and a half with Marcio) our bags, survival gear, camera gera, and full fuel, the Cirrus was pretty heavily loaded down. I didn’t do a weight and balance because I didn’t really want to know just how much. Madness you say? Not so says I. Almost any airplane can fly at weights far over its certified max gross weight. How do I know this? Because back in my early days of ferry flying the FAA allowed planes being ferried over the ocean to fly 25% over max gross weight and with the center of gravity 2 inches of aft of the rearward limit. You just have to know how to fly a plane in that configuration. which is why they took out the waiver for the aft CG. Too many pilots got too slow and crashed. When flying a plane over max weight you have to keep your speed up and fly smooooooth. It’s that simple.

Oh, and Marcio had one more reason to be scared of the upcoming crossing. The Cirrus was running like shit. Ever since we’d picked the plane up in Munich we’d been fighting the planes tendency to run rough at low altitudes. Especially when reducing power in the descent.

I tried everything. Leaner mixture, richer mixture, boost pump on, boost pump off. I even resorted to reading the manual! No help there. The engine ran fine at altitude and on the ground but having it cough and sputter during an approach was……..disconcerting.

The German mechanics in Munich couldn’t find anything wrong and gave me that look that mechanics love to give pilots. the one that says “Are you sure you know what your doing?” We had lots of theories as to why it ran rough but in the end it came down to, did the engine die completely? No? Then off you go. Have a nice trip. Fine, what could possibly go wrong?

The flight from southern England up to Wick Scotland was nice though. It’s a rare day that you can see the Scottish highlands like this.

When we got to Wick Marcio was flying from the left seat. I’d been giving him more takeoffs and landings, trying to get him comfortable with the little Cirrus. Being a jet pilot he set up for landing WAY out over the water. Typical pattern for a jet but I like to be closer to the runway in a piston in case something goes wrong. Which was exactly when the engine started running rough again.

And while I was trying different mixture and boost pump settings I suggested (in no uncertain terms) that maybe he should, you know, point us at the nearest point of land maybe? Please? He didn’t disagree.

I managed to get the engine smoothed out and Marcio’s landing was acceptable. I think he was just as happy to be able pull out a smooth landing in the Cirrus as he was to getting down safely.

We put the plane in the hanger and I did an oil change while Marcio did an interview for the camera. Big shot.

To Be continued:

The Race Part 4

The morning started with an argument. Our Cirrus had a gremlin in the production company’s sound system. We didn’t know how long it would take to fix and with Marcio’s wife about to give birth any day we could ill afford any delay. Cory and Pete’s Caravan had a similar sound system that was working just fine. Cory and Pete didn’t have any real important deadlines hanging over them. (unless you count getting back home to their families, which they did) How about this for an idea. We swap sound systems. That way Kerry and Marcio can get back on the road and Cory and Pete could deal with the problem instead.

“You guys wouldn’t have a problem with that would you?” Marcio asked. It turns out that, yes, yes they did have a problem with that. And if you had such a tight deadline maybe you shouldn’t have taken the trip,no? After all, every good ferry pilot know having deadlines is a very dangerous thing when ferry flying. Plus, no. We are not willing to give you our sound system.

Marcio could maybe have been a bit more diplomatic but it didn’t really matter in the end as the AV guru called a bit later to tell us that he’d chased the gremlins out of the Cirrus and we were good to go.

We wasted getting back in the air and headed toward jolly old England. It turns out that we should have wasted a little time because as we were approaching the English Channel Marcio discovered that we might not make it to the airport he’d filed our flight plan for before it closed for the night. Not to worry. We just called up ATC and requested a landing in Southampton instead. Amazingly they approved the request with only a mild bit of harrumphing and highly unusualing.At least that’s what we thought.

As we pulled up to Southampton’s FBO we had group of very official looking men with guns drawn surround our plane. “That’s new.” I said. There was a lot “Out of the plane! Hurry up! Hands where we can see them! What’s all this then? Show us some ID!

We’d been detained by the British Secret Service! We didn’t expect that.

“NOBODY EXPECTS THE BRITISH SECRET SERVICE!”

(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

The agents started out very hard core and cop like but they put the guns away when they saw two middle aged pilots and a scared cameraman. They wouldn’t tell us what the problem was at first. One group brought us inside and started interrogating us while another searched the plane.

They looked really skeptical when we told them we were filming a TV show and ferrying a plane that was being exported at the same time. They softened a bit when our cameraman began pleading with them to please please please let him film this encounter. By soften I mean angrily refusing his request. But they relaxed a little because 1. Nothing makes a cop happier than turning down a reasonable request, And B. If we were even asking to film this we probably were who we said we were.

Then Marcio turned on the charm. (Something the big Brazilian was particularly good at) He began telling them the story of how we’d been trying to get this plane out Europe but first a rough running engine and then problems with our sound system had forced us to turn back from England not once but twice. And how his time was running out to get back to his family. And how he was scared to even fly in this tiny thing because he’s a jet pilot. By the time he was done he had them eating out of the palm of his hand. They were basically like “And then what happened Marcio?”

Satisfied, they finally told us why they thought we were terrorists or something. It seems that someone thought it unusual that we filed flight plans from Germany and then France and both times cancelled in mid-flight. Then when we changed landing locations, again in mid-flight, there suspicions were confirmed. “ARREST THE BLIGHTERS!”

Could this trip get any weirder? Turns out, it could.

To be continued:

The Race Part 3

While Marcio and I were enjoying the product that Scotland is most famous for, Cory and Pete were stuck in the actual country. The daring duo had finally made it to Wick but their hopes for a quick turn and been dashed. You see they were now in Eurocontrol country. And when you want to fly in Eurocontrol’s airspace you must ask pretty please my I? And this time the answer was “no, we don’t have a slot time for you right now, maybe later, much later.”

They tried everything. Changed their routing. Nope, still no slot time. Change their requested altitude? (Even though the Caravan’s turbine engine would use a ton more fuel if they flew lower.) No. Fly VFR? “No, stop asking. We’ll get back to you when we get back to you.” which turned out to be 8 hours later because they had to fly right past both London and Paris which, as it turns out, is a rather busy chunk of airspace.

But eventually the Caravan landed at the Annecy airport only fifteen minutes after they were to be officially closed for the night. Which wouldn’t be a big deal in the US, but in France when an airport closes it closes. No landings permitted. Luckily I’d been in contact with Pete and knew it would be close so I’d gone up to the tower and pled my case for a little extra time. The controller was reluctant at first, (Zat is ze rule monsieur) but after a few fingers of Glenfiddich found its way into his coffee mug things just sort of worked out.

The gang was back together! Not only had I done trips with both Cory and Pete but the cameramen in both our planes were best friends and had known each other since college. I was especially glad to see their cameraman John.

John had been my cameraman on every trip I’d flown the previous season and we we really got along well. That first year we flew all over the world together, landing in over 50 countries and having all kinds of amazing adventures. You don’t spend that amount of time with someone without becoming great friends.

It was a fantastic night. First we had to apologize for the horrible accommodations and mediocre food.

The wine wasn’t even fresh. It was years old!

Then it was a great night out on the town where the locals treated us like kings.

It was the kind of night that makes me love being a ferry pilot. It’s the grand adventure of flying small planes around the world, meeting up with other ferry pilots and swapping flying stories at the bar, and meeting the locals who think that what you do is just the coolest thing in the world. Which of course it is.

But the next day it was back to work. Cory and Pete were going to get checked out to be able to land on the famous Courchevel¬†airstrip (one of the most dangerous in the world) and Marcio and I still had a broken sound system on our hands and Marcio had a real race to win because his wife was super pregnant and if he didn’t make it home in time to be there for the birth of his second child he would be a dead man.

To be continued:

The Race Part 2

When we left off our intrepid heros were trapped in horrible horrible Annecy, having a truly horrible time.

The audio visual guru finally arrived the next day and began doing whatever it is that those guys do to try and get the feedback out of the audio track. it was a complicated take seeing that we had 5 cameras mounted inside the Cirrus which were also hooked into our headsets and the radio. Marcio and I could only pace nervously back and forth hoping for a quick fix because we’d heard that Cory and Pete getting ready to leave Reykjavik soon and if we didn’t leave soon we’d lose the race.

But it wasn’t to be. the AV guru climbed out of the plane shook his head and said something to the effect of damned if I know. Great.

We called the boys and told them that unless had problems over their last ocean leg they would arrive in Scotland victorious, before we could even get off the ground. And not only that it looked like we’d be stuck in Annecy for at least another day and as long as they were flying this way would they care to drop on in and join us in our French hell hole? They would, they would indeed.

Now what? we’d lost the bet and were still grounded. Stuck in France on the company’s dime with nothing to do but wander back through the medieval to our 5 star hotel until it was time to sit through another meal of that terrible French cuisine. It was to weep.

But wait! Didn’t we have a bottle of Scotch in the plane? We did. And although we did owe it the boys for winning the bet we weren’t obligated to give it to them full to the top were we? We were not.

No sore losers here!

To be continued:

The Race

Team Kerrmarcio

A few years ago while filming “Dangerous Flights” my copilot Marcio (the big Brazilian) were ferrying a turbo charged SR22 Cirrus from Munich to Las Vegas. Along the way way had some minor audio problems which “forced” us to land in Annecy France. (poor us) Annecy is one of the most beautiful places if ever been to and definitely where I want to be next time I have mechanical problems with the plane.

On this particular flight we were in a race with Cory Bengtzen and Pete Zachinino to see who would get to Wick Scotland first. You see they were flying a Cessna Grand Caravan to Africa about the same time and it looked like our paths would cross somewhere over the North Atlantic so why not make it a race. And if you’re going to race, you’re going to bet. And if pilots are going to bet, they are going to bet booze. Because why not bet on something practical? That everyone could use everyday? Like socks. Or whisky.

So the race was on, our honor, (and a bottle of Glenfiddich), were on the line.

It started out poorly for team Kerry. We had no sooner left Munich when the Cameraman riding in the back (remember, we were filming a TV show) reported that he had some kind of mistry feedback in the audio and we needed to land and sort things out. Crap.

We shot a pretty low approach (which I love) into Hamberg and after some head scratching decided that the problem was too much for us. We needed the help of the guy who installed the video/audio system, and luckily he was still in Europe and could meet us in France.

So back in the plane we go. Only instead of heading north west toward Scotland and victory we headed south west toward the land of great cheese and wine. Bummer. I guess. Sort of. Not really.

Meanwhile Pete and Cory were dealing with problems of their own. It started out with a major snow storm covering the entire east coast. Followed by Major cold weather in Northern Canada and Greenland. (Cold in Canada and Greenland, in the winter? Who could have seen that coming?) Then a major drunk front rolled into Iceland and cost them more time. (I’ve had that happen to me more often than I can’t remember)

Both teams were dealing with some serious obstacles. Bragging rights and, more importantly, a bottle of fine Scotch was on the line. Who would prevail?

To be continued:

Snow Day

Last thursday I checked the flight schedule for the upcoming weekend and noticed that my trip to Chicago had been canceled due to weather. Canceled due to weather? We’re not flying Piper Cubs here, we’re flying Cessna Citation 650’s. These planes are the very definition of an all weather, mission capable aircraft. They have a max gross weight of 23,000 pounds. Can climb to 51,000 feet and the two Garrett TFE731-4R-2S engines produce 4080 pounds of static thrust that can push that baby along at up to .89 MACH. They are also fully capable of flying in even serious icing conditions with heated leading edges on the wings and tail. I mean these planes are Bad Ass!  They can handle anything!

And also, we’re from Wisconsin not florida! us northern folk just laugh at winter weather. we just grab the heavy jacket, put our boots on and go get the job done. Cancel due to weather, please.

But there it was on my phone, no flight to Chicago this weekend. Bummer. I was disappointed not because I was going to miss sitting in a hotel room drinking Scotch and watching cable TV. No, this weekend my wife was thinking about taking the train and meeting me for a quick getaway. Free hotel room, per diem money to cover dinner, and maybe catch a show. Perfect little trip.

OK, the forecast did call for snow and maybe a little wind, but come on it’s winter! That’s what happens, don’t be such a chicken.

And it turns out I was right……About Friday night and Saturday. Saturday night and Sunday were another matter altogether. The snow Saturday night dumping over 12 inches on us just as the wind picked up. We had continus gusts of over 40 mph for almost 24 hours. It’s been a while since I’ve seen drifting like this.

Ok, it might have been a bit sporty coming back from Chi town after all.