After an extremely cold and stressful crossing of the North Atlantic from Nuuk, Greenland to Iceland, it was necessary to de-thaw before continuing my journey. Iceland's famous “Blue Lagoon" was suggested by my friend Ed Neffinger as a place to visit.
My original route of flight from Reykjavik, Iceland to Wick, Scotland. The route was modified prior to takeoff to fly at 3000 ft and below freezing levels off the coast of Iceland.
An enormous storm, which would have kept me grounded for the next five days, was moving rapidly towards Iceland from the west. My plan was to leave BIRK in the early morning just before the storm hit. A large high, parked over the west of Ireland provided clockwise rotation and 36 knot tail winds towards Scotland. Perfect.
173 knots ground speed at 6.2 gph. I would pay a price for the tremendous tail wind later. Wick reported 29 knots gusting to 38 knots right down the runway.
The landing at Wick, Scotland was like riding a bucking bronco down to the ground. After touch down and half stick back to protect the nose wheel, the plane started to climb again. I hope Wick ATC would not charge me for multiple landings! The taxi to the “Far North Aviation” hanger was practically uncontrollable. Thank you Andrew for the tremendous welcome and support during my stay in Scotland.
After three relaxing days in Nuuk, it was time to leave. The weather window opened to Iceland, or so I thought. My route was scheduled to climb to 13,000 ft over the 9000 ft Greenland Ice cap and remain there for hours. Outside air temperatures decreased to -15c as I progressed eastward. It was impossible to keep warm, even with the heater on and fully clothed.
Greenland Ice cap. The cap was largely hidden from view under a cloud layer at 11,000 ft. Unfortunately, I did not spot any polar bears, which was a disappointment.
Thousands of icebergs were visible as I crossed over the east coast of Greenland.
The assigned route from the east coast of Greenland to Iceland. By the time this picture was taken, I was pretty much frozen. I descended to a lower altitude, but still wanted to stay high for safety. I continued on for the next 500nm over the North Atlantic at 130 knots TAS to save fuel.
The cloud layer was up 11,000 ft as I approached the coast of Iceland. ATC reported light icing at 5,000 ft. On descent I managed to pick up ice on the windshield and leading edges of the wings, which melted below 3,500 ft. There was no decrease in performance of the air frame or engine. The alternative airports reported similar conditions. I flew a very precise approach in instrument conditions and landed at BIRK chilled to the bone. No flight this far north can be taken casually.
The frozen North Atlantic from 11,000 ft. I selected this altitude because it was thousands of feet above the uniform cloud layer containing freezing fog and known rime icing conditions. No visible moisture was present at my flight level with temperatures about -6 C. Inside the sun lit cockpit, it was so warm, I had my survival suit zipped down the waist. Earlier, I practiced zipping up my survival suit when sitting in a chair in Iqaluit. My ISPLR single man life raft and ditch bag were close at hand in the event of an emergency.
80 percent of the time, the cold, scary Atlantic was hidden from view, with an occasional glimpse of the ice pack between gaps in the clouds. The ice sheet melted as I approached the coast of Greenland as the land emerged from the mist.
446 nm from Iqaluit to Nuuk with 25 knot headwinds. The EFIS MAP displays the route and geography on both sides of the crossing with no ADSB or radar coverage.
I am getting better at blindly broadcasting position reports every 5 minutes.
I spotted my first Iceberg 100 nm from Greenland! It does not look like it would sink the Titanic, but perhaps make a rather large dent in the hull.
Incredible approach to Nuuk, Greenland. On turn from base to final, you face a solid wall of rock. The short 3000 ft runway is perched above a beautiful harbor and the capital city of Greenland.
Colorful houses in contrast to the stark landscape. With only 55,000 people in the entire country, there is plenty of room for everyone.
The owners of my guest house asked me to accompany them for their first coastal cruise of the season. Thanks Lars!
On June 12, I filed IFR and flew along the east coast of Labrador at 11,000 ft, avoiding rain/snow clouds to the west. The terrain is still covered with snow and ice with few alternative airports along the way. It was surreal to cross over the frozen North Atlantic ocean en-route to Baffin island and Iqaluit. The cabin heater and my flight suit barely could keep me warm with outside air temperatures hovering at -5 C. The ground was obscured under the clouds most of the way, but occasionally I could see a glimpse of the land. It was a real pleasure to travel at up to 160 knots at 6.5 gph with 25 knot tail winds.
On ILS approach to Iqaluit over the North Atlantic.
"May" parked in Iqaluit. A very cold, windy, and expensive place.
A broken down Antonov AN-2 pushed to the side of the runway. Note: Fence in background keeps out the polar bears.
The weather is very unpredictable and changes incredibly quickly up here. Temperatures are hovering around 1C. I am using Windy and Foreflight as my primary weather and flight preparation tools.
Fortunately, I am very comfortable at the "Accommodations by the Sea" B&B. This is a great place to plan the North Atlantic crossing. A weather window should open up by Friday.
The permit to enter Greenland was finally approved, so I decided to continue to Bangor, Maine. I was fortunate to meet up with David, a RV-12 owner and member of VAF in the Bangor area. He seems to know many of the RV owners on the east coast and very involved with the community.
The next day, I flew from Bangor, Maine over the St. Lawrence river and rugged terrain to Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, fighting head winds all the way. I was glad to have the aft ferry tank filled to capacity before departure. The range of the aircraft without the 66g Turtle Pac is 1250nm. There are not many alternative airports in this remote area.
Goose Bay is an unexpectedly large airport with lots of turbo prop and jet traffic. A passenger from one of the inbound flights spotted "May" in the terminal area , Googled my tail number, and handed me a donation towards the "Alzheimer's Association of America". Thank you Ralph! Please make a donation towards the Alzheimer's Association.
Water bombers ready for the fire fighting season. It snowed a few nights ago. Will summer ever arrive this year?
I flew from New York to Vermont for 90 minutes in IFR conditions (clouds, rain, and icing reported slightly above flying altitude). The outside air temperature was closely monitored and "May" landed safely at KMPV. This was great practice for upcoming legs of the trip. I am staying with my sister's family in Montpelier, VT waiting for a Greenland permit. Since I am running slightly behind schedule, I will likely head directly up to Goose Bay and not land at Bangor. There are still reports of snow falling in Iqaluit!
"May" landed at Oshkosh after 11.5 hours of flight. I was exhausted, but managed to land safely and taxi to the tower to sign a "certificate of landing" form. Afterwards, the controller on duty was kind enough to give me a quick tour of the tower. I spent the next day recovering, visiting the EAA museum with my brother, and planning for the next leg of the trip. It looks like I may be delayed flying to Monpelier/Barre due to thunderstorms over New York and Pennsylvania.
After waiting days for a favorable weather window, I finally begin my trip around the world On Friday June 1st. "May" will fly heading east from KCCR to KOSH non-stop in about 11 hours. The route will follow the most direct path possible and avoid restricted/military operations airspace. Highlights include crossing the Sierra Nevada and Rocky mountains, the Great Basin desert, and vast open spaces of the west. Spectacular!
This past week, I have been testing the extended range fuel tanks with several long flights within the state of California. I am waiting for a weather window to open to start the first leg of my around the world flight.
This blog page will be regularly updated about each leg of John's flight.