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.


(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: