I’m finally having a little time to give you all a trip report. It will be short and sweet because all this racing around is leaving me with almost no time for blogging.
Day 1. I’ve been hired to deliver a 1976 Piper Navajo Chieftain from Ft. Lauderdale to Bangkok Thailand. Going with me on this grand adventure is my best friend since 3rd grade, Lee Wolfgram. Lee and I have spent the last 100 years or so getting each other in and out of trouble so I couldn’t think of a better co-pilot to come with me on this trip. We arrived in Florida hoping to jump on the plane and go but instead spent almost a full day sorting out a long list of maddening problems. We finally left late Tuesday afternoon into a state c completely covered in thunderstorms. After winding our way between the massive cells we found clear skies out over the coast. Flying north we found one last batch of thunderstorms in Maryland just before the sun went down and we called it day.
The flight out of Maryland to Bangor Main was an easy one, just the kind of leg I needed to get acquainted with the Navajo. Every plane has its own quirks and techniques that a pilot needs to know to be effective. The Navajo seemed like a good bird except for a hot running left engine. When we got to Bangor I ran into my good friend and fellow TV star Pete Zaccanino. Pete’s a great pilot who not only ferries all kinds of aircraft all over the world he’s also a test pilot who’s tested some of the military’s top fighters. Oh, and by the way he won the Reno air races’ last year in the open jet class, so ya, he’s kind of a bad ass. But time and the fuel truck wait for no man so Lee and I were off for Goose Bay Labrador while Pete was headed west to Utah.
When we got to Goose Bay it was too late to get any food except chicken wings and fries, not exactly a feast but better than nothing. They did taste good with Canadian beer though. After that it was back to our crappy hotel to rest up for the first Atlantic crossing tomorrow.
The big day! First crossing for Lee and the bastard doesn’t seem the least bit concerned, of course he does have me with so what could go wrong! Well for starters when I got to the airport there was large puddle of AV Gas under the Navajo, not good. I got under the plane and could see fuel leaking all the way down one wing and dripping from the belly. I traced the leak to the an access panel under the left wing and opened it up only to find that there was a fuel fitting that was only finger tight! I shudder to think of what would’ve happened if I hadn’t noticed the leak or if it had started leaking just a few hours later because it wasn’t leaking yesterday. I checked the weather, liked what I saw as far as icing and winds aloft were concerned so off we went, hell bent for Greenland.
It took us 4:30 hours to make the crossing and when we got to the coast I was happy to show Lee what I conceder to be the most beautiful place to fly in the entire world, the fjords of Greenland. We got lucky and had good weather for viewing the glaciers and icebergs, to was truly spectacular.
After landing one of the fuel guys got my attention and pointed to the left engine. I walked over and saw that smoke was pouring out of the engine and the entire left side was covered in oil. Great. Some much for a quick gas and go. Lee and I pulled the engine cowl off and found that the engine was pretty well full of oil. I couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from so I went over to a group of gentlemen standing around a DC-3 painted up in D-Day invasion stripes, when I say gentlemen I mean the grubby kind of guys that would restore a DC-3 and fly it from the US to France for the 70th anniversary of D-Day. There had to be a mechanic in the bunch. In fact there were 2. The whole gang came over and diagnosed my problem to be a blown valve cover gasket. There was a lot of talk about how to fix it without the proper parts but in the end the consensus was to order a new gasket, I mean we’re going to fly over almost 700 miles of open ocean after all.
I made a quick call to the boss and told him to have one shipped asap then went to go visit my old friend Hans. When I told him my situation he told me that it would take almost a week to get it shipped to Greenland. Now that didn’t make me too happy because even though Greenland is fun and all it gets old after about 1 day. So Lee and I met back up with the DC-3 crew over drinks that night and discussed how to make a valve cover gasket.
The next day we went looking for gasket paper and got lucky in a small auto shop, that had exactly what we needed. I borrowed a pair of scissors from flight planning, cut out a new gasket and had it on the plane with a bead of sealant in under an hour. I have to admit I was pretty proud of the job Lee and I did, I couldn’t wait to test fly the Navajo and see how we did. The test flight was one of the most enjoyable flights I’ve ever done. Being able to fly around the fjords and glaciers taking pictures and just goofing off for 45 minutes was a blast.
When we landed I was bummed to see oil all over the side of the plane. Our fix had held but it was the wrong fix. We had no idea where the oil was leaking from. But the good news was that we weren’t losing a lot of oil, it was just making a big mess. So We crossed our fingers and took off for Iceland.
Sorry I’m having problems uploading photos and don’t have tine to mess with it right now so stand by.