The weather quickly deteriorated over the boot of Italy as I progressed further south towards Greece. I fought for improved vectors multiple times as ATC kept directing me in to cumulonimbus weather. Position reports were required every 10 minutes as there was no radar coverage off-shore.
The Ionian sea between Italy and Albania is hidden from view.
Working my way through the gaps in the clouds.
Time for dinner and a cold beer.
On approach to Iraklion, air traffic control placed me in to a 8 turn hold at 1500 feet off the coast of Crete. After 15 minutes in the hold, I was finally vectored to an ILS approach. I was asked to make all possible speed on final as there were a string of jets in my wake. This airport is incredibly busy with often long hold times for both arriving and departing traffic.
Oil Change and Electrical repairs in Trento, Italy
During the first oil change and maintenance inspection of the trip, Luca Parazzolli (EAA, Chapter 1581) and I discovered corrosion damage to the high current electrical bus and associated components. This was quite the surprise, as the plane was in perfect condition before the start of my trip. The corrosion damage was caused by a leak of the primary 12V battery mounted to the firewall and over the electrical components. The likely cause of failure of the battery: 1) flight through extremely low temperatures causing the battery case to crack. 2) a manufacturing error in the battery. The battery was installed just prior to the start of the trip.
Luca networked with his fellow RV builders in the area and heroically obtained a new battery, main relay, starter relay, Silicone boot, and fabricated a new #2 battery cable within hours. I had a spare shunt in my parts bag. We spent 15 hours repairing the electrical system to like-new condition and tested the engine and electrical system. Thank you, Luca, for all of your help, resourcefulness, attention to detail, and a great network of friends.
The Spirit of Aviation...
One of the many EAA chapters around the world. Members enthusiastically help out a RTW pilot in need.
1 million Euro view from Luca Parazzolli's hanger in Trento, Italy
Smoke on! CREWRV8, Luca's aerobatic team practicing over Trento, Italy.
Stable of hand built experimental aircraft.
Luca's hanger/workshop where we performed the oil change and repairs on my aircraft.
Photo credit: Luca Perazzolli
The departure from Trento, Italy required flying through a narrow mountainous valley toward the Adriatic sea.
Photo credit: Luca Perazzolli
This 735 nm leg would be the most complex I have ever flown. The flight would require transiting the air space of five countries, radio hand-offs to a dozen controllers, each speaking English, but with a unique accent. Eventually I climbed to 14,000 ft over the Alps to Italy, following narrow airways over mountain passes in instrument conditions. There was little margin for error.
Crossing the English channel from England to Belgium. My thoughts were on the "D-day" invasion as I approached continental Europe at 10,000 ft.
90 years ago, Louis Bleriot, a French engineer, was the first to fly an airplane across the English Channel, 21 miles from Calais in France to Dover, England. The London Daily Mail had put up a £1,000 prize for the first airplane flight across the Channel.
Just outside Calais in Bleriot Place, which means Bleriot Beach, there's a small stone monument in a residential neighborhood commemorating the events of July 25, 1909. Near this spot, Bleriot made a short test flight in the dark at 4:15 am.
He was flying a tiny frail monoplane with a three cylinder Anzani motorcycle engine that had a tendency to explode if it overheated - or after about 30 minutes, whichever came first.
The flight across the channel would take about 40 minutes. It was a calculated risk.
Bleriot was not the only person trying to cross the channel in late July 1909. The Daily Mail, a London newspaper, had a put up a thousand pound prize to the first person who could do it.
To be official, the flight had to happen in daylight, and at 4:41 when the sun was officially over the horizon, Bleriot took off.
He had no instruments. The weather was blustery and misty. Visibility was not good. A French destroyer was positioned half way across the channel to help guide him, but legend as it - he got lost.
Bleriot cut his engine and came to Earth pretty hard, breaking his propeller and landing gear, and proving again that any landing you can walk away from is a good one.The bad weather worked to his advantage, though. A rain shower cooled his engine. He had his way to the English coast, spotted someone waving a flag to signal the landing spot near Dover Castle. Bleriot cut his engine and came to Earth pretty hard, breaking his propeller and landing gear, and proving again that any landing you can walk away from is a good one.
Today the open grassy field where Bleriot landed is overgrown with dense shrubs. But as you walk through the thicket, suddenly you find yourself in a wonderful clearing, and you can stand where history happened. The outline of his plane has been set down and memorialized in marble. Like many small airplanes that made history, you are surprised at how small it is.
Bleriot won the prize money and became the next great aviator to become world famous in an instant, but those were the days when flying records were made and broken quickly.
Another article describing his flight.
CREDIT: DAN PATTERSON, WYSO.org, Smithsonian
Ice accretion on the wing and tail surfaces over the Italian Alps. In a few more days, N944JK would cross the middle east during peak summer temperatures.
After a brief stay in Wick, Scotland I flew in a southerly heading along the east coast of England all the way to Duxford. The "high" mentioned in my previous post pushed "May" along at 160 knots as temperatures rapidly rose.
Fly my plane over the green fields of England ... check!
Unpacking my gear after a speedy flight from Wick, Scotland. The photographers showed up immediately before I could clean up the mess.
Photo Credit: David Whitworth, Duxford Diary.
G-GDRV. Manuel Queiroz flew his RV6 around the world in 2006. I read his engaging book "Chasing the Morning Sun" (www.chasingthemorningsun.com) and corresponded with him prior to my trip. Thank you Manuel for sharing trip preparation and technical information with me.
During my approach to Duxford, I shared the sky with a Supermarine Aviation Works, Ltd Spitfire and a de Havilland Tiger Moth. Can life get any better than this!?
I never grew tired of watching a Spitfire tear up the sky above Duxford. The sound of a V12 Merlin engine is music to my ears.
A resident flying Spitfire at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England. (www.ifm.org.uk). IMF Duxford hosts an incredible collection of aircraft and museums open to the public.
Thank you Allan,Peter, and Chris for assisting me during my stay in Duxford. Allan was instrumental to help me plan my flight across the complex European air space from England to Italy.
SR-71 located in the American museum. A "slightly" faster aircraft than the Spitfire.
After an extremely cold and stressful crossing of the North Atlantic from Nuuk, Greenland to Iceland, it was necessary to thaw before continuing my journey. Iceland's famous “Blue Lagoon" was suggested by my friend Ed Neffinger as an appropriate pilot de-icing facility.
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. I departed Reykjavik in light rain, and flew south-east for 100 miles before clearing the clouds and climbing higher for better winds.
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 coast of Ireland provided clockwise wind 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.
Passing the rugged Faroe Islands enroute to Scotland.
EGPC - ATC reported winds at 29 knots gusting to 38 knots right down the runway. Wick is located at the northern tip of Scotland and gets blasted by unrelenting arctic winds.
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.
To escape the blustery winds outside, I taxied my plane in to one of the WWII-era hangers at Wick airport. For many ferry pilots, this is the last stop in Europe before heading to Iceland and onward to North America. The entire airport is a time capsule from the 1940's and has a great vibe. Thank you Andrew for the tremendous welcome and support during my stay in Scotland.
On 21 May 1941, a photographic reconnaissance Supermarine Spitfire piloted by Flying Officer Michael F. Suckling took off from Wick, and flew to Norway, in search of the German battleship Bismarck. If Bismarck was to break out into the North Atlantic, she would present a significant risk to the ships supplying Britain. 320 miles to the east of Wick, F/O Suckling found and photographed her, hiding in Grimstadfjord. This information enabled the Royal Navy to order HMS Hood and other ships, as well as aircraft, to take positions intended to track Bismarck, and prevent her from entering the North Atlantic. In ensuing battles, Hood was sunk, and, later, Bismarck. German battleships and battle cruisers never again entered the North Atlantic.
Credit: Wikipedia, Wick Airport.
After three relaxing days in Nuuk, it was time to depart Greenland. My flight was scheduled to climb to 13,000 ft over the ice cap and head east towards Iceland. Outside air temperatures decreased to -15c as I progressed over the east coast of Greenland. It was impossible to keep warm, even with the heater on full blast.
Beneath my plane lay clouds at 11,000 ft and the two mile thick layer of ice called the Greenland Ice cap. My view was largely blocked due to the cloud layer. On a clear day, previous RTW pilots have spotted dozens of polar bears wandering across the massive ice cap.
Thousands of icebergs were visible as I crossed over the east coast of Greenland.
The most spectacular flying you will ever do.
Despite the bone chilling temperatures, most RTW pilots will agree flying over eastern Greenland is the best flying they will experience in their lifetime.
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, ice coated the windshield and leading edges of the wings in seconds. However, it melted just as quickly 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 over the Davis Strait. 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!
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. There are only 55,000 people in the entire country.
The owners of my guest house asked me to accompany them for their first coastal cruise of the season. We brought along considerable firepower in the event of a unexpected polar bear encounter.
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.
Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach in to Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Mighty RV-9A landing in to a brisk wind.
Photo Credit: Twitter
Van's recommends keeping the nose wheel off the ground as long as possible during landings. Full aft stick is recommended during taxing to keep the weight off the nose gear.
63°44'49.09"N, 68°31'2.17"W and 1800 miles from the North pole.
Photo Credit: Twitter
After landing, I fueled the plane with the last of the 2017 AVGAS (2 barrels remaining) . Frobisher bay was still frozen and had not received it's one shipment of fuel for the year. I lost a few gallons fueling the plane in 30 knot winds.
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, with temperatures hovering around 1C. I waited it out for 3 days before the right weather window opened to Greenland. My primary flight preparation tools: Windy and Foreflight.
Frozen Frobisher Bay from the deck of the "Accommodations by the Sea" B&B. I spent 3 days waiting for the right weather to Greenland.
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.
Water bombers ready for the fire fighting season. It snowed a few nights ago. Will summer ever arrive this year?
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 Rob Perry!
Please make a donation towards the Alzheimer's Association.
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!
My sister and her family greeted me at Edward F Knapp State airport in Vermont.