I recently read that the latest upgrades on the B-52 will extend it’s service life until 2040. With the price tag of a new bomber fleet, especially one with supersonic capabilities, higher than than anyone is willing to pay our air crews could someday be flying 100 year old airframes. Personally I think drones and flying bombs make more sense than sending heavy bombers into heavily defended targets. When you think about the cost of training air crews and maintaining them, i.e. pay, housing, medical costs and retirement it has to be cheaper to build flying bombs that can take off, or be launched, fly hundreds of miles and strike the target. Why send bombers when you can just send the bombs?
Taking off on a trip of this magnitude is definitely not something to be taken lightly. Proper planning is everything, make one mistake, miss one important item and it can cost you dearly. A good ferry pilot insures that he is well prepared with all the maps and approach charts for the route, spare parts and oil for the aircraft, landing and overflight permits filed and most importantly……snacks. The choices you make at the grocery store before you take off can haunt you for thousands of miles, if you know what I mean.
Marcio and I left Sydney with three bags of salt and sugar, we told our wives it was fresh fruit and rice cakes, and a case of good India Pale Ale on ice. There is nothing like a clod beer after on the ramp after a long day’s work. Our first planned stop was Mt. Isa in central Australia, Heart of the outback Mate! But a one hundred knot headwind at thirty eight thousand feet caused us to make an unplanned stop in beautiful Longreach home of the…..of the…….well not much but it did look like there had been water there sometime in the last few years or so.
Getting out of the Jet we were surprised to find that Longreach is home to the Qantas Air museum. It had a Dc-3 747 and a few other old jets that I don’t remember. I miss the days when they named airliners like name ships, the plane in the foreground is called the CITY OF CANBERRA and the 747 is called THE SPIRIT OF……….., can’t remember. You just never know what you’re going to find on one of these trips.The rest of the flight to Darwin was over some of the most beautiful and primordial looking countryside I’d ever seen. I would dearly love to go back there someday with my family and go on a walkabout. Getting into Darwin there were a few thunderstorms to dodge but being in the Phenom made it a non-issue. When we landed it was still light out, a rare treat for a ferry pilot, we flew all the way across Australia in less than eight hours! I could really get used to flying in jets, the same trip in a small single engine plane would’ve taken over thirteen.
After checking in to the hotel and having dinner Marcio and I wandered over to one of the local watering holes for to observe the Sheilas in their native environment. Being a two
young old, good looking Haggard looking, single married guys on the loose in Darwin you can only imagine what an epic night we had.
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.
The crack refers to the canyon although some may argue that it’s what the wing suit pilot must be smoking. I started flying a wing suit about six or seven years ago and instantly became hooked. Back in those days the BASE jumpers used their wing suits to get as far away from the cliff they jumped from as possible. As the pilots, and yes we are pilots, we just fly the smallest aircraft there is, got more experience they started flying closer and closer to cliff faces. Of course there were a few accidents, pioneers rarely go un-punished, but the result has been some spectacular footage. In the video above one of the balloons gets caught in the wing tip vortices, very cool. I must confess that I have yet to make a BASE jump, there are no really high cliffs that are legal to jump from in the US. and I’m not jumping from anything lower that 2500 feet. Now I know to non-jumpers, or Wuffos as we call them, that sounds bass-ackwards but in skydiving the higher you are the safer you are. when you deploy your parachute at two thousand feet, the lowest altitude we normally pull at, if you have a malfunction you have time to cut away the bad chute and deploy your reserve. Base jumpers pull so low that there isn’t time to cut away so they don’t even bother jumping with a reserve, you get one shot. So for now BASE jumping is not for me. Someday I’ll go to Norway and jump off the three thousand foot fjords but until then I’ll have to be satisfied with jumping out of a plane and flying my wing suit among the clouds.
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.
I’m recovering from toasting Lex off with the Minnesota contingent last night. We had a good showing at O’Mallys Pub and unfortunately I had to leave before a recently retried two star admiral who flew with Lex showed up. He apparently had some good stories about Lex from the old days. Before I left we put a slight dent in the bar’s Guinness supply and told each other about our favorite Lex post. Here’s mine.
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.
As many of you might have heard Mil Blogger Carroll “LEX” Lefon was killed earlier this week flying an Israeli F-21 Kfir at Fallon as a civilian contractor. LEX’s blog Neptunus Lex was the first site I hit every morning for flying stories, wisdom and just plain great writing. Lex and I shared a few emails and his tips about the book I’m writing about my own flying stories were increadable gifts from the master himself. Lex was loved by many and the fact that hundreds of fans who have never met are getting together tonight all across the country to swap Lex stories and honor the man is a great tribute indeed. So if Lex touched your life like he did mine or you just want to help celebrate the life of a great man raise a glass of Guinness tonight at 7:00 CST and toast the fallen. For strength.