When I prepare for an ocean crossing in a small aircraft I try to think of any problems that I might encounter on the flight and what I could do if they occur or to prevent them from happening in the first place. What do I do if I run into strong headwinds, icing conditions, or the airport closes due to low ceilings? What if the fuel in one tank won’t transfer or I lose oil pressure? These are the questions that make it hard to sleep the night before a crossing. Once you’re at the airport it’s time for final preparations. Pre-flighting an airplane you are about to fly across hundreds of miles of open ocean is extremely unsatisfying and unsettling. After checking the normal things like fuel and oil you walk around the aircraft nervously making sure that you didn’t miss anything that might become a problem in flight and potentially send you down to the cold water of the North Atlantic. The problem is that there is not that much to check because with the engine buttoned up all you can do is make sure you have the oil cap on tight and hope for the best.
Watching Marcio squeeze into his jumbo sized survival suit was something to behold. It was like watching someone trying to put toothpaste back into the tube. Once he was suitably encased in head to toe orange neoprene Marcio looked like a giant orange snowman. This was his first ocean crossing in a piston engine aircraft and he wasn’t really happy about it, especially the single engine aspect. At some point there wasn’t anything else to check and it was time to squeeze into the cockpit wearing our survival suits. It was difficult for Marcio to get in and out of the Cirrus in just his normal clothes watching him struggle wearing the suit made both of us question his ability to get out in a timely manner in an emergency.
We picked up our clearance, made one final engine run up and finding nothing wrong took off into the early morning sky. Once airborne and out over the ocean it was time for the routine of checking our actual ground speed vs. what we’d planned for, fuel consumption and nervously listening for any change in the engine. But the Cirrus performed great for the crossing and after three and a half hours we approached Iceland. Being in a turbo charged aircraft equipped with oxygen we’d flown at twenty thousand feet which had put us above the clouds and ice but you can’t stay up there all day, eventually you have to land. As we approached Reykjavik we descended into into the clouds and almost immediately began to see ice forming on our wings. If we’d been flying a plane without a anti ice system this would’ve been a real problem but once activated, the Cirrus’s TKS anti-ice system cleared the ice off perfectly and prevented it from re-forming. The Approach into Reykjavik went smoothly and we were soon shut down on the ramp with our first ocean leg behind completed. Getting Marcio out of the cockpit was probably the most difficult part of our day.